Address Migration in Africa from Rights Perspective, “not security”: Cardinal in Morocco

Cristobal Cardinal Lòpez Romero during his presentation at the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). Credit: ACI Africa

The challenge of migration in Africa needs to be addressed from the point of view of human rights, the Cardinal in Morocco has told delegates of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Accra, Ghana.

In his presentation on the third day of the July 25 – August 1 Plenary Assembly that has brought together over 120 Catholic Bishops in Africa and Madagascar, Cristobal Cardinal Lòpez Romero emphasized the link between the right to a dignified and productive livelihood, which poverty negates, and migration.

“When we address the issue of migration, we must do so from the perspective of rights - with the corresponding duties - but not from a security, police and repressive perspective,” Cardinal López Romero told the delegates coming from the eight regional associations of the continental symposium who are meeting under the theme, “Ownership of SECAM: Security and Migration in Africa and its Islands”.

The Archbishop of Rabat in Morocco criticized the view that migration is a problem, saying, “Human migration should be seen as a reality or a social phenomenon, not as a problem.”

“The problems are wars and socio-political-religious conflicts (which generate refugees and asylees); poverty and hunger (which cause economic migration); economic inequality between the countries of the North and the South,” he explained, adding, “The migration of people is almost always a consequence of these problems.”


“Migration may later be the cause of other problems, but sometimes it is rather a solution to problems, both in the country of origin and in the host country,” the Cardinal further said during his Wednesday, July 27 presentation.

The Spanish-born member of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) underscored the link between poverty and migration. He said, “If wealth does not go where the poor are, the poor will go where the wealth is.”

“There is no phobia towards migrants, but towards the poor,” Cardinal López Romero said during his presentation at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Conference Center in Accra, the venue of the 19th Plenary Assembly of SECAM.

He said that some of the factors that push people to leave their homeland include “ignorance, mafia, lack of interest from governments, lack of knowledge of religious communities, success and pull effect of those who arrive.”

The Cardinal went on to highlight policies in Europe and the United States that seem to “restrict and exclude migrants”.

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“These rich countries want to lock themselves into their well-being and do not want to be disturbed,” he said, and continued, “The United States is building a physical wall; Europe is building an administrative and political wall. Europe only defends itself by closing itself off and creating difficulties.”

The SDB member challenged Christian communities of the European Union to “denounce these migration policies and not fall into the trap of populism.”

Despite these challenges, the Cardinal said Catholic Bishops in Africa can “draw practical conclusions for their pastoral work.”

He urged SECAM Bishops, in reference to migration, to be “interested in the situation of the phenomenon in their countries: know the figures, if possible, the causes, the mechanisms, the methods used.”

The Cardinal also invited Catholic Bishops in Africa to “focus on education, both formal and informal: schools, parishes, youth centers, etc., to inform the young population and families about the ins and outs of the migration.”


Cardinal López Romero said Catholic Bishops in Africa decry the situation of young people when they undertake the dangerous “journey they call adventure”, leaving their respective countries. 

He said, “We, the bishops gathered at SECAM, want to express the pain of seeing the young people of our countries leave; even more so, to know that they are suffering during the journey they call adventure and to count them among the dead in the desert, or drowned in the sea or crushed and suffocated at the borders.”

“We make public our helplessness in not being able to prevent their departure, in not being able to offer them acceptable living conditions in their country,” the Archbishop of Rabat said.

Catholic Bishops in Africa, he continued, “call on the authorities to launch information and awareness campaigns by all available means on the danger of illegal migration, as well as efforts to create jobs and decent living conditions so that no one feels compelled to leave their country.”

“We commit ourselves to take charge of this issue with all the pastoral agents in order to take measures that favor the free choice of our young people, but also the commitment of each of them in the construction of their country,” the Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry as Archbishop of Rabat in March 2018 said.

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He said that SECAM members “encourage all Christians and all people of good will to fight from politics, education, culture and communication to create a positive climate about the migration phenomenon, to extend the ideal of universal brotherhood (following Fratelli tutti), to force governments to adopt policies according to the four verbs proposed by the Pope (welcome, protect, promote, integrate), and to avoid the political use of migration as an electoral motivation.”

Aware that the main causes of the migration phenomenon are the injustice of the economic system in force at world level, as well as the laws of international trade, the Cardinal said, “We call upon multilateral organizations, states, political forces and civil society in each country to promote the establishment of international relations based on solidarity, justice and equity.”

“Only the development of each person will allow people all over the world to freely exercise the human right to stay in or leave their country,” the Archbishop of Rabat who was elevated to Cardinal in October 2019 and installed Cardinal-Priest of San Leone I in February 2020 said.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.