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Bishops Decry Mistreatment of Guatemalan Migrants

Criticize EU, US and Mexico

GUATEMALA CITY, JULY 7, 2008 ( Zenit.org ).- The bishops of Guatemala are pleading for better treatment for migrants from their country, just as the European Union is hoping to finalize its new policy on immigrants.

In a statement Thursday, the prelates expressed their “regret and concern” over the worldwide situation of immigrants, noting that migrants are motivated by “extreme reasons — poverty, unemployment, insecurity, natural disasters, war, and others.”

Meanwhile European Union officials, at informal talks in France today, expressed optimism that the “European Pact on Immigration and Asylum” could be finalized by October. Many are criticizing the measure as xenophobic, though defenders say it is just an attempt to control and regulate human movement in the union.

The bishops took particular issue with some of the clauses in the pact, saying, “This initiative is excessively restrictive and does not give sufficient guarantees for respect of migrants’ human rights.” In that regard, they lamented that the policy gives authorities the right to detain immigrants for 18 months for processing, without any criminal charge.

The Guatemalan bishops’ statement, signed by Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri, president of the Pastoral Committee for Human Mobility, expressed their “solidarity, and moral and spiritual support to all those migrants suffering persecution, raids and deportations at present in the United States of America.” They also address “those who with despair are about to suffer xenophobic laws and policies violating fundamental human rights in the European Union — a hostile and incoherent policy such as that implemented in the United States.”

The statement notes that this year, an average of 6.5 flights a week have returned deported Guatemalans from the United States. Nevertheless, migrants in the United States have already sent $1.7 million back to their families in Guatemala during 2008.

As Church leaders, “we are worried by such events suffered by the immigrant community in the said nations, which have opted for repressive and discriminatory dispositions against thousands of illegal immigrants who contribute clandestinely to the economy of their countries of origin and of destination.”

The bishops said deportations from the United States and Mexico “in no way solve the migratory problem; they are counterproductive and inhuman actions.”

Appeal to government

The episcopal conference also called on the Guatemalan government for better measures to reinsert deported workers back into society.

“To date, the actions of the government do not guarantee a dignified stay in our country for the deported,” they lamented. “Given the economic, political and social situation, many are obliged to attempt a return to the north. Thus migration is transformed into a constant vicious circle that fosters the increase of debt in families.”

Given the migratory panorama and the situations faced by their fellow countrymen and migrants of the Central American region, the Guatemalan bishops call for “reflection by member nations of the European Union, by the United States of America and by Mexico, to act with solidarity and without prejudice to migrants.”

The bishops also exhort the migrants “to be strong in face of such blows and to remain united and in solidarity in their struggle against such adversities. They have our support and solidarity. They are present in our prayers.”

The Guatemalan bishops proposed united action from Central American groups so as to be able to “influence the European Union and call it as a whole to reflect on these attitudes against migrants.”

Filed under: Migration, Social Justice

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