Calling migration “one of the principal moral issues” facing humanity today, Pope Francis thanked the government and people of Thailand for the way they’ve welcomed migrants and refugees, but he urged greater efforts to protect migrants and poor Thais from human trafficking.
Migration movements around the globe “are one of the defining signs of our time,” the pope said today – 21st November – during a meeting with government officials, civic leaders and members of the diplomatic corps in Bangkok’s Government House.
“The crisis of migration cannot be ignored,” the pope said. “Thailand itself, known for the welcome it has given to migrants and refugees, has experienced this crisis as a result of the tragic flight of refugees from nearby countries.”
According to the 2019 report of the UN working group on migration in Thailand, of the 64 million people living in Thailand, 4.9 million are non-Thais, an increase of 1.2 million people in five years. The largest groups come from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Pope Francis urged the international community to “act with responsibility and foresight” to help people live dignified lives in their own homelands and to “promote safe, orderly and regulated migration” for those who see emigrating as the only option for themselves and their families.
“May every nation devise effective means for protecting the dignity and rights of migrants and refugees, who face dangers, uncertainty and exploitation in their quest for freedom and a decent life for their families,” he said.
“It is not just about migrants; it is also about the face we want to give to our societies,” Pope Francis insisted.
Human trafficking, especially of women and children for prostitution and for domestic service, is a major problem in Thailand, according to the UN Action for Co-operation Against Trafficking in Persons.
‘Thailand is recognised as a key destination for human trafficking in the Mekong region, in addition to being a source and transit country for forced labour and sex trafficking,’ the UN said. The problem involves poor Thais as well as migrants.
Addressing Thai leaders, including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, Pope Francis drew special attention to women and children “who are wounded, violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse.”
Picture: Pope Francis and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, right, arrive for a welcoming ceremony in the courtyard of the Government House in Bangkok on 21st November 2019. Also pictured is the pope’s second cousin, Salesian Sr Ana Rosa Sivori. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).