[ HEADLINES ARTICLES ] From Social Justice Secretariat, Society of Jesus

Immigration policy along the southern border of Europe
A number of recent initiatives by the southern European provinces of the Society of Jesus highlight a situation of injustice that is common to their countries. On 7 May (and again on 15 May), Jesuit Refugee Service protested sharply against the indiscriminate return of hundreds of men and women who had been trying to reach Italian shores from Libya. Their expulsion back to Libya without assessing their protection needs stands in direct contravention of international and European law but was hailed by the Italian government as a "historic development in the fight against irregular migration." The government has also introduced legislation that will criminalize irregular migrants.
The JRS statement continues: "As EU policy further restricts paths to legal migration, migrants are using increasingly irregular and extremely dangerous routes to get to Europe. Libya does not offer these migrants any sort of protection, having never signed the UN Geneva Convention of 1951, and without any effective sort of asylum system."
In the meantime, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, voiced concern during a visit to Rome that asylum seekers in Greece are not being treated according to international human rights law. In Malta, JRS has called for better regulations of Search and Rescue Areas in the Mediterranean, given the extent of the Maltese Area and the unwillingness of Maltese authorities to actually provide a Search and Rescue service.
"Democratic Control for the management of the southern border" (Control democratico para la gestion de la Frontera Sur) is a proposal to the Spanish parliamentarians in the newly elected European Parliament. The 24-page document, which was produced by SJM-Espana, the Spanish Jesuit Migration Service, is an analysis of the mechanisms put in place by the European Union to control its southern borders. The external borders of the European Union have been moved into North Africa, where pockets of irregular migrants are trapped and where their basic human rights are being violated. The document makes recommendations and urges parliamentarians to visit the places within and outside the European Union where migrants are detained. [July 2009]

Narratives: Francisco de Paula Oliva SJ, Asuncion, Paraguay.
My life has been one continuous apprenticeship. And my best teachers have been the poor and the young people of Andalusia and Latin America, especially those of Paraguay. Right now my apprenticeship is in Banado Sur de Asuncion, a neighborhood with 16,000 inhabitants. Every ten years or so this zone is flooded to a depth of four meters, so that for more than nine months we have to live in wooden shacks strung along the city's avenues. When the waters of the Paraguay River finally recede and people return to their homes, they have to start all over again from scratch. The Banado Sur district is the frontier between humanity and inhumanity. Some 90% of its people live in poverty, and more than half live in absolute misery. What is most lacking is work, and I don't mean dignified work, just work. There is a garbage dump where men, women, and children spend their lives for the sake of earning two dollars a day. The heat and the humidity of the place are suffocating, and the people have to work completely covered with clothes. Other people push little carts around the city centre collecting plastic items; they spend more than two hours going and another two returning.
In Banado Sur there are no sewers, and waste waters flow through the streets. Drugs are rampant and hold the young people of the neighborhood in their grip. Many robberies are committed every day for the sake of getting a ration of marijuana or crack. To top things off, there is frequently no water or electricity in the area. And the malnutrition is alarming. Nevertheless, despite all this, I consider Banado Sur to be Paraguay's moral reservoir. If in the midst of these conditions the people still show a great desire to live and are so outstanding in their hospitality and solidarity, then there is no person and no force that will ever take those values away from them. In reality, they live in the midst of great joy and peace.
What have I learned? Well, that my Faith is lived out in struggling with them and beside them - on the board of advisors for all the social organizations of Banado Sur and as the priest for three of the area's chapels. I join with the "Thousand in Solidarity" in providing assistance so that 500 youths aged 14 to 18 can earn a living by studying and then go on to the university. But the most important thing I have learned is that at the age of 81, I can still have a youthful heart. This is the greatest treasure the young people and the poor have given me. Perhaps, at last I am beginning to be a little like them. [Dec. 2009]

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