Monday, November 30, 2009

Pope appeals for rights of migrant and refugee children

By Sarah Delaney
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI urged governments and international organizations to give special attention to the rights of child immigrants, who often are victims of exploitation and abandonment.

Minors forced to immigrate for reasons of poverty, violence or hunger are the most vulnerable, he said.

The pope made the comments in his annual message for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated Jan. 17 in most countries. The papal text was released at the Vatican Nov. 27.

The pope said host countries must create policies that protect child immigrants and help them integrate into society. These children should enjoy basic rights such as going to school and being able to work legally, he added.

"I warmly hope that proper attention will be given to minor migrants who need a social environment that permits and fosters their physical, cultural, spiritual and moral development," he said.

Despite increased awareness of the need to help child immigrants, the pope said, "many are left to fend for themselves and, in various ways, face the risk of exploitation."

Pope Benedict referred to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes children's "fundamental rights as equal to the rights of adults." But "unfortunately this does not always happen in practice," he said.

The pope's message was presented at a Vatican press conference by Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers; Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the council; and Msgr. Novatus Rugambwa, undersecretary of the council.

See also from Catholic World News, "Pope calls attention to young refugees."


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