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Deporting immigrants? Vatican rep speaks at UN

Illegal aliens in detention center

Fishman64 | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 11/10/23

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia delivers intervention on proposal handling expulsion of people in territories without a legal status.

The International Law Commission was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947 and meets on an annual basis. One area in which it has been considering a new international law is the expulsion of foreign nationals from a territory where they have no legal status.

The Vatican’s representative at the United Nations recently reaffirmed several principles that should be part of any such law.

“Refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and victims of human smuggling and trafficking often face immense challenges and are unfairly blamed for today’s social problems,” Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said in a November 2 intervention at the UN in New York. “Unfortunately, a significant number of persons are forced to leave their homes due to persecution, violence, natural disasters, and poverty. Migration, in such circumstances, is a natural human response to crises, based on the universal human desire for a better life.”

Archbishop Caccia commented on draft articles that the International Law Commission put forward. “While the draft articles do not call into question the right of States to regulate migration, nor do they impose undue restrictions on the cases in which expulsion of the alien is warranted, they do emphasize the primacy of human rights and human dignity over national interests,” the archbishop said. “For this reason, my delegation welcomes Article 5, which provides that measures relating to the expulsion of aliens must be carried out in accordance with both the domestic legal framework and the State’s obligations under international law.”

Don’t send people into danger

The Vatican’s chief diplomat at the UN said that the Holy See “strongly supports” the extension of the principle of non-refoulement, which guarantees that no one should be returned to a country where he would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm.

The Holy See also supports the progressive development in the limitation of the death penalty

“In this context, my delegation welcomes, in particular, paragraph 2 of Article 23, which extends to those States which currently do not apply the death penalty – although it may still exist in their legislation – the prohibition on expulsion of aliens to States where there is a real risk that they will be subjected to death penalty,” said Caccia. “Indeed, no person should be expelled, returned or extradited to another State when there are substantial grounds for believing that his or her life or physical integrity would be threatened.”

Persons facing deportation must always be treated with dignity, he added. “The highest priority must be given to the right to family life and the prevention of family separation, as indicated in draft Article 18. The best interest of the child should be the primary consideration in all decisions made on their behalf.”

The archbishop concluded that conflicts in various parts of the world are exacerbating the number of marginalized and distressed people. “Therefore, the Holy See fully supports the adoption of an internationally binding instrument addressing the expulsion of aliens as well as the establishment of an ad hoc committee or an open-ended working group open to all States, to negotiate such an instrument,” he said. “The complex and politically sensitive nature of this matter, which affects countless people, requires the formulation of common norms and clear standards.”

Holy SeeImmigrationVatican
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