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136th ICMC Governing Committee meeting

Italy, Rome: The 136th International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) meeting of the Governing Committee was held on the 15th-16th of November 2022, in Rome, Italy.

The Governing Committee meeting was the first of such gatherings since the Covid 19 pandemic. The Governing Committee is comprised of 14 members representing the episcopal conferences of Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North Africa, North America and Oceania.

Representing the Oceania region, Mr. Jason Siwat, from the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands Desk for Migrants and Refugees (CBCPNGSI M&R) attended this meeting in person.

The attendance by Mr. Siwat was significant for three reasons. Firstly, it was an opportunity for Mr. Siwat to meet in person with high level staff of the ICMC. Mr. Siwat took advantage of this opportunity to speak about firstly the dire situation of the migrants and refugee situation in Papua New Guinea. He explained that the CBCPNGSI M&R Desk was only established last year, as a result of the growing concerns from the bishops and the Catholic Church in PNG regarding the plight of migrants and refugees. He added that there is a lot to be done in PNG regarding refugees, migrants and also environmentally displaced persons, and there is need for the M&R Desk to grow its capacity to be able to attend to some of these issues. He spoke notably of the issues of the West Papuan refugees in PNG and the challenges they face.

Secondly, it was important for someone from the Pacific Island countries to be involved in this high-level meeting of the ICMC. Coming from such a background, Mr. Siwat brought a grassroots perspective to the discussion and spoke of the realities of the climate induced displacement in the Pacific. In presenting his report to the Governing Committee, he also highlighted the limited attention by the ICMC itself to this region so far. With the ever-increasing climate induced displacement around the world, the smaller Pacific Islands are the most vulnerable and impacted. However, there is no proportionate level of support given to them to build their resilience or to support pathways to durable solutions. In his report Mr. Siwat named four key areas as opportunities for ICMC to work in the Oceania region:

1. Climate change and climate induced displacement in the small Pacific Island States

2. West Papuan refugees in PNG and neighbouring countries in the Pacific

3. Seasonal working scheme in Australia and NZ

4. Establish a secretariat for the for Oceania Bishops Conferences or support them to promote attention and actions on migrants and refugees, and climate induced displacement in the region.

Thirdly, the meeting was a great opportunity to create awareness about the need for supporting the work of the M&R Desk in PNG, and also in Solomon Islands in the near future. As is mostly the case with smaller episcopal conferences, financial capacity is a hindrance to its operation and service to the people. Speaking separately to the ICMC and also the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Holy See, Mr. Siwat highlighted the need for funding and other capacity building assistance. He outlined that the M&R Desk currently deals mostly with refugees and some internally displaced persons in PNG. However, it needs support from major Catholic-inspired organizations like ICMC and the M&R Section of the Holy to sustain its work.

Apart from the meeting, Mr. Siwat also took time to visit Caritas Internationalis office, Talitha Kum, and the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Holy See Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

ICMC is a Catholic-inspired NGO working to provide assistance and protection to vulnerable people on the move. It advocates for sustainable solutions for uprooted people and their communities by implementing and advocating for rights-based policies and sustainable solutions through its worldwide membership of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, and alongside governmental and non-governmental partners. Its head office is located in Geneva and has operations around the world.

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