Staggered by the abrupt increase of Filipinos leaving the country to work abroad over the past 39 years, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urged the Catholic Church to take lead in protecting migrant workers and refugees.
According to the 2013 Country Migration Report (CMR) of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Philippines alone has deployed a total of 1,802,031 overseas workers in 2012, a sharp increase of 1,765,996 from 1975 when only 36,035 Filipinos left the country to find a greener pasture abroad.
Tagle, who is a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People, noted that there are 72 million forced migrants worldwide in 2012, which 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 [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 delivered before the Filipino-American community 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 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.
Recently, Tagle was alarmed over the increasing number of unemployment rate and poverty in the country despite of the much-touted robust economic growth in 2013.
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.”
“The migrant, especially the forced migrant, is a traveller, is a person on a journey—tired, thirsty, weary, fearful,” Tagle said.
“We can help transform their human story from that of a horror story… into one of warm welcome, genuine caring, and the experience of belonging,” he added.
ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ