Communities hosting refugees need help and ‘a more positive narrative’

The Canadian Embassy to the Holy See hosts a two-day workshop in the Vatican that seeks to support local communities that sponsor refugees, while sharing the expertise of community sponsorship programmes in the United States, Britain, Germany, and Italy.

Sep 27, 2022

By Devin Watkins
The Canadian Embassy to the Holy See joined forces with the International Catholic Migration Commission—along with the Embassies of Britain, the United States, Germany, and Italy—to host a workshop on welcoming refugees.

The two-day event kicked off on Monday, and explored the results of a programme created by the Canadian government to assist local communities in hosting people who have fled conflict and other challenges. Over 300,000 refugees have been helped through the Community Sponsorship Programme in their integration into local communities in various parts of Canada since its inception in 1979.

Strengthening communities
According to Ms. Angele Tissot of the Canadian Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the event hopes to boost similar initiatives in other countries, while strengthening host communities so that they might become more welcoming places for refugees to live.

At a press briefing ahead of the event, she noted that awareness of the need to integrate refugees into local communities came after the mass exodus of the “Vietnamese boat people”, a migration phenomenon that reached its peak in the late 1970s following the Vietnam War. More recently, the wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine have pushed the issue of refugee settlement up the political to-do list.

Msgr. Bob Vitillo, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission, held up the Canadian programme as a potential model for European Union states, as they seek long-term solutions to integrate refugees. The American-born priest said similar programmes could be implemented even in other parts of the world beyond Western countries.

Canada’s initiative mainly focuses on larger cities, but in Europe it is often more rural areas that have proven most willing to welcome refugees, especially given the demographic decline of small towns.

Referencing Pope Francis, Msgr. Vitillo said that integration of refugees is a two-way street, since those who welcome and those who are received both offer each other cultural and economic enrichment.--Vatican News

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