Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle was staggered by the abrupt increase in Filipino people leaving the country to work abroad over the past 39 years and urged the Catholic Church to lead in the protection of migrant workers and refugees.
Citing records from the Country Migration Report (CMR) of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2013, Tagle said the Church must help migrants and refugees to be aware the full dimension of their condition.
In 2013, the CMR reported that the Philippines alone deployed a total of 1,802,031 overseas workers in 2012, or 1,765,996 more than the 1975 total of 36,035.
Tagle, who is a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People, noted that there were 72 million forced migrants worldwide in 2012, 3.5 million of whom were stateless.
He added that at least 20,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea in the past two decades trying to reach Italy, Malta, Spain and Greece.
“I thought I would risk boring you by giving you the data. It is staggering. We’re talking of millions of [forcibly]displaced people. The figures cited are not just numbers. They are human beings with faces, lives, stories [and]destinies,” Tagle said in his address before the Filipino-American commu–nity in Fordham University, the Jesuit University of New York, last March 28.
Tagle has received the Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa for “combining strong convictions with a moderate tone and an emphasis on dialogue rather than pronouncements” and “for his moral leadership, advocacy for the poor and his many efforts on behalf of the Catholic Church.”
He said the Catholic Church will need a holistic approach to ensure the protection of the migrant workers.
“While addressing the causes of forced migration is necessary, we need a fresh perspective on the protection of forced migrants by looking at the human consequences along with its social costs [and]the wounds it inflicts on displaced families,” he said.
Meanwhile, he stressed that the best way to ensure the welfare of the migrant workers is through “assessing the perils and risks that drove them away from home, as well as the consequences, that they faced during their flight from those risks.”