On the occasion of the September 19, 2016 United Nations General Assembly High Level Summit for Refugees and Migrants, we issue this statement as an agency of The United Methodist Church charged with advancing efforts for peace and justice, and with consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.
We welcome the initiative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in convening a high-level summit for addressing large movements of refugees and migrants. The painful and tragic realities of forced migration and massive displacement, affecting upwards of 65 million persons or one in every 113, signal a global crisis. As United Methodists, we are acutely aware of this crisis from our ministries with and among migrants, refugees, and displaced peoples. Global migration is an historical and current concern of The United Methodist Church, addressed in the Social Principles and frequently by General Conference action (Book of Resolutions #6028 Global Migration and the Quest for Justice). Our work gives us a glimpse of the upheaval, terror, and destruction these persons and their communities suffer due to armed conflict, natural disasters, climate change, gang violence, religious and ethnic persecution, economic deprivation, political instability, and more. This occasion of a gathering at the highest governmental levels in the UN is a crucial moment that must be seized.
When migrants’ human dignity is desecrated, and their human rights are violated, we must stand up for their protection and well-being. In addressing the salient aspects of the summit, we join the World Council of Churches, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, ACT Alliance and the Churches Witnessing With Migrants in their assertion that a meaningful and effective way to address the issues facing refugees and migrants today is to take consideration of the following concerns:
- Address the root causes of large-scale forced movements of refugees, migrants, displaced people, including those forced to move by climate change, natural disasters, poverty, and conflict;
- Support sustainable and equitable development—realizing that “without enabling fair and equitable development for poor communities, it will not be possible to prevent the worst rights abuses linked to unsafe, large scale movements of people;”
- Reaffirming existing international human rights, international refugee and international humanitarian law—bearing in mind that “anchoring state policies within the international rights framework would also guarantee the effective consideration of the specific protection needs of women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and other groups vulnerable;”
- Responsibility sharing among states—where “states should commit to accepting adequate numbers of refugees on their territory”…”including “increasing their resources for helping those countries hosting most refugees” as well as committing “to reliable quota for resettlement and the safe and legal access to their territory for the determination of asylum seekers;”
- Providing more legal channels for regular labour migration—ensuring “more reliable and safe routes” to potential migrants;
- Ending the criminalization of the uprooted—by ensuring “access to fair status determination procedures and protection” and “that “detention of those seeking protection needs be ended as a matter of urgency.”
We therefore join others in asserting that “governments must set up human rights-based mechanisms and resources to adequately and sustainably respond to the refugee and migrant crises.” Further, that “governments address the root causes of large movements of people through sustainable and equitable development, including lasting solutions to natural disasters, conflicts and war.”
We call on governments to “include civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, and others, in all responses, noting their unique contribution particularly in humanitarian response, community mobilization, and sharing of best practices.” Such inclusion and participation is most crucial because the crises are too vast for any one state to handle. We commit to joining and doing our share in enabling the international community to arrive exactly at such solutions that in the end, also truly affirm the human dignity and human rights of migrants and refugees.
The General Board of Church and Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board is called to seek the implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements of the General Conference on Christian social concerns.