GLOBAL: Celebrating International Migrants Day
In honor of International Migrants Day, Salesian Missions highlights programs that assist migrants and their families.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 18, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring International Migrants Day. Each year, International Migrants Day is held on Dec. 18 to recognize the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.
According to the International Migrant Stock 2019, a dataset released by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the number of international migrants reached 272 million in 2019, continuing an upward trend in all regions of the world. This is an increase of 51 million migrants since 2010.
The UN further reports that in 2019, Europe hosted the largest number of international migrants (82 million), followed by North America (59 million) and northern Africa and western Asia (49 million).
Youth often leave their homelands in search of employment, education and a better way of life. Many youth choose or are forced to migrate to escape poverty, violence or conflict, or are displaced due to the effects of war or climate change. The UN notes that youth are heavily represented in migration for humanitarian reasons including as refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors.
Salesian missionaries care for and provide educational services to young migrants in countries around the globe. Unaccompanied migrant youth often face rejection, homelessness, exploitation and delinquency as they make their journey to find a new way of life. They are also at risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
“Salesian programs help young migrants adapt to their new environment through language and skills training and workforce development programs,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “A lack of employment is one of the root causes of migration in countries that see high rates of youth migrating to seek a better life elsewhere. In addition to helping young migrants, Salesian missionaries are working to create new educational and employment opportunities in countries youth leave as an incentive for them to remain at home.”
Migrants were particularly hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Far away from home and often taking day laborer work, many were left homeless and without any source of income as countries went into lockdown. Salesian missionaries, particularly in India, focused on providing support to this population.
To mark International Migrants Day 2020, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and social support to migrants.
Salesian missionaries in San Benito Petén, Guatemala, have been providing support for migrants from Honduras who are trying to reach Mexico. Central American migrants, mostly Hondurans, are part of a new caravan and have been looking for alternative ways to enter Mexico. They are passing through the Petén department in northern Guatemala with the intent to go through the Mayan forest and enter the Mexican state of Tabasco.
The Salesian mission in San Benito Petén was started at the end of 2011 to provide education and social development programs for at-risk youth. Salesian missionaries operate a youth program that offers classes in Spanish and English, mathematics, computers, arts and crafts, music, and dance, as well as provides organized games for participants. Youth in the program are able to get away from difficult home situations or playing on the streets to engage in productive activities in a family atmosphere that fosters peace and stability.
The situation in India remains a challenge as the country continues to respond to COVID-19. Many migrant citizens are still looking to return to their home states within the country. Numerous special convoys have been organized, but social distancing measures and the large number of people involved make everything slow, complicated and painful. Father Barnabe D’Souza, director of the Salesian Center Nerul, and his team are helping those seeking to get out of Mumbai.
There is a long wait for those looking to leave Mumbai on the trains and buses made available by the authorities. People checked in three to four weeks ago for their trip but must wait until their names are called from the computer-generated list. When they are called, they must go to the local police station to verify their identity four to five hours in advance. They are then taken on a municipal bus to the railway station. There, their temperature is checked and they stand in line waiting for their seat to be assigned. The whole process takes about six to eight hours. If all goes well, their train leaves the station. But sometimes the train is up to six hours late or canceled. It is a nightmare for them because they are not used to living on the street at night.
The Salesian Center is providing migrants with a package of nutritious food for the trip and a bottle of water. Many of them call to thank the Salesians after arriving at their destination. One of them noted, “There was no canteen on the train, no stalls opened for even a cup of tea in the stations where we stopped. Your food packet was what kept us going.” Another migrant wrote, “Thank you Father, your food packet was the only food we received for our entire three day trip. God will surely bless you and all those that helped us.”
Salesian missionaries in Lima, Peru, are working to accommodate migrants and refugees from Venezuela. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Salesian missionaries to sign an agreement to
set up temporary migrant assistance offices at the Salesian Institute, which is located in the Breña neighborhood of Lima. The Salesian Institute is expected to receive an average of 1,000 people per day.
Salesian Father José Valdivia, provincial economer of Peru, explained that the cooperation agreement was made through the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). UNHCR has noted, “People continue to leave Venezuela to escape violence, insecurity and threats as well as lack of food, medicine and essential services. With over 4 million Venezuelans now living abroad, the vast majority in countries within Latin America and the Caribbean, this is the largest exodus in the region’s recent history.”
Prior to the launch of the migrant assistance offices, Salesian missionaries in Magdalena del Mar, Lima, opened the Don Bosco House for youth who arrive in Peru. Here they are offered food and accommodation.
BoscoSocial brings together the work of three organizations impacting communities in Spain. These organizations are the Boscos Foundation, which has projects in Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja and Cantabria; the JuanSoñador Foundation’s projects in Galicia, Asturias, and Castile and León; and the Pinardi Federation, which has projects in Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha.
BoscoSocial projects focus on training and support and have impacted more than 14,000 children, adolescents, and youth at risk of social exclusion. Nearly 1,400 families have been assisted thanks to the work of more than 400 educators and contract workers and more than 230 volunteers. Among the various programs supported by BoscoSocial are programs tailored specifically for migrants. These initiatives include training, social support and connection with the local labor market.
In Galicia, the JuanSoñador Foundation facilitates the Malaikas project, which is for women between 19-75 years of age who are at risk of social exclusion and in situations of vulnerability. In 2019, more than 650 women of 45 nationalities participated. The Malaikas project aims to break the isolation of migrant women, provides meeting spaces, and creates circles, networks and alliances, which encourage the empowerment of women to face their life plans within the migration process.
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