Manila (Agenzia Fides) – Help for stateless persons, victims of a "disturbing global phenomenon" affecting thousands of Filipino children: this is the appeal launched by the Catholic Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, sent to Agenzia Fides. Scalabrinian priest Fr. Restituto Ogsimer, Executive Secretary of the Bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, states that "the faithful must defend the rights of stateless persons". While the world seeks answers and solutions for the phenomenon of asylum seekers and refugees "the church is looking and must continue to find ways to assist these stateless children".
"As members of the Church of Christ, we are called to act now, seek them out and extend our hands the farthest it can reach to care for them, to embrace them and to make them feel loved and recognize their existence in our midst", says Ogsimer in the message published on the occasion of the National Day of Migrants, which the Church celebrates on March 10th in the Philippines.
According to Ogsimer, statelessness challenges both the church of origin and the receiving churches, stressing the need for a vigorous campaign to mainstream the discourse on the issue. "There is the need for policies and laws to recognize and promote “just treatment” and to provide basic material needs for them especially the young", he says.
Current statistics cover 3.7 million stateless people in 78 countries, while the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that at least 10 million people globally could be stateless.
In Malaysia’s Sabah state, it is believed that more than 10,000 children are born to Filipino migrant parents who entered and worked in the country without proper documents. Malaysian immigration law does not grant legal status to children of immigrants. "In effect, the children are not registered and became victims of conflict in nationality laws and are in statelessness status; putting them in a more vulnerable situation", says Ogsimer to Fides. "For example, they cannot even be enrolled in formal school for proper education; and have no access to basic health care", he adds.
As of 2015, reported statistics showed that some 40 percent of the world’s stateless people – more than 1.4 million – were living in Southeast Asia.
It was in 1987 when the Filipino Bishops initiated the celebration of the National Migrants’ Sunday to promote awareness in the church and society on the issues and concerns linked to overseas Filipino migration, who are over 10 million.
The event highlights the church’s effort to help them cope with the effects of migration, due to work, their lives and their families. (SD)(Agenzia Fides, 5/3/2019)