Nowadays, migration is mainly thought of in individualistic terms, as an experience that affects isolated individuals. In reality, one of the most dramatic spheres of migration is the family dimension, as mentioned by the Archbishop I. Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, during the event «Family and Migration» in occasion of the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Migrants are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, nephews, fiancés and much more; nevertheless the central position of families within the debates about migration is often overshadowed. Family policies and migration policies are too often kept separated, even though these two realities are deeply intertwined. Giving this connection the space it deserves means defending migrants’ right to family life and family unity, which is one of the best ways to ensure the respect of their dignity as human beings whose life is enriched with personal relationships.
The current refugee crisis is multi-layered and presents several difficulties, however it is specifically in connection with one of its challenges that education comes into play and can help in the achievement of long lasting results.
As Maria Mercedes Rossi, representative of APG23, pointed out during her intervention, politicians and other public figures often promote a distortive narrative on migrants, endorsing a misleading image that needs to be opposed by all means. Sure enough, educating the population and most of all young generations to the values of tolerance and inclusion is a fundamental step to achieve the harmonious integration of migrant families within their hosting communities. As it was mentioned during the conference, a toxic narrative produces false perceptions that can result into harmful attitudes such as racism, xenophobia and discrimination. It is therefore fundamental to educate children and young people to the meaning of diversity, making them understand the value of a heterogeneous society. The school system has a demanding but worthwhile duty, i.e. to give the right inputs to students, in order to encourage positive perceptions and attitudes.
Many of the speakers mentioned Pope Francis’ four leading verbs that guided the drafting of the 20 Action Points for the Global Compact on Migrants and Refugees: to Welcome, to Protect, to Promote and to Integrate. The last two acquire special relevance when it comes to education. “To Promote” recalls that the main goal of all interventions must be the integral human development of migrants and of their welcoming communities, and education has the power to boost such flourishing. “To Integrate” recollects all the reciprocal processes that involve migrants and hosting communities, fostering dialogue among different cultures. Schools as well as families are the primary actors in such processes of integration.
To conclude, another intervention highlighted the role of education in promoting a culture of respect and acceptance towards migrants. Nowadays, the word «migrant» is merely used with reference to those who arrived recently, in the last few years or maybe months, and who are treated with suspicion and mistrust because of their frequent lack of documents, fixed accommodation or occupation. And yet, some migrants have been living in their hosting communities and serving them for many years, but this is often forgotten.
They are the proof that, with the right assistance and support, everyone can contribute to the flourishing of the society. This is why it is important to defend migrant’s right to family life and family unity, because if properly guided and welcomed in favourable conditions, they can fully integrate into the hosting communities, generating a value that only diversity is able to provide.
Cecilia Litta Modignani