November 29, 2022

Breaking Boundaries: A Mercy Response to People on the Move Issue Spotlight #3 - Meeting Needs and Upholding Rights

The Mercy Global Action Migration Task Force’s report ‘Breaking Boundaries: A Mercy Response to People on the Move’ was born from a collection of stories and experiences of Mercy work with migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers around the world, tied together by human rights-based critical analysis and Catholic social teaching.


What Contributes to a Person’s Legal Migration Status?

Many different factors influence a person’s decision to start a journey to build a life in a new country. Some of these factors encourage a person to leave a place of origin, and others draw a person to a particular destination. Some migrants leave their country in order to work, study, or join their families. Others feel they must leave because of poverty, widespread human rights violations, political unrest, violence, the effects of climate change, and environmental degradation. Often people will face a combination of factors in making their decision.


A person’s migration status is complex – it can be determined by who a person is (e.g. child, woman, religious minority), why they move, or how they migrate. A person’s migration status is also not fixed – it can change over time because of an active choice or a change of circumstances. 


Though every country has its own immigration laws and visa schemes, there are certain broad labels that governments apply to non-citizens residing in their countries that affect the obligations of States and the ability for people to access rights. “Refugee”, “migrant,” “asylum-seeker,” “undocumented,” “citizen,” or “stateless” do not reflect a person’s whole identity. 


The international human rights regime establishes that States should respect and protect the rights of all those within their territories, whether nationals or not and guarantees most rights to all people without discrimination. 


The Importance of Documentation in Accessing Rights

Although the question of identification and documentation is conceptually distinct from legal status in a country, it is increasingly inseparable in practice. At the most basic level, a person lacking identity documents cannot travel through legal channels, which increases a person’s vulnerability. 


If registration and identification procedures are not implemented with rigor and integrity, people may face greater difficulties proving their entitlement to nationality or refugee status. 


The Need for Regular Pathways and Paths to Permanency

Even with access to a legal identity, too many migrants remain limited in their options to migrate safely or to regularize their status if they are in an irregular situation. Without safe and dignified regular pathways, migrants are often left with only precarious and irregular migration options. Others may be granted a temporary stay in a country and then be left unable to adjust to permanent status, leaving them in limbo. These situations exacerbate vulnerabilities, often limiting people’s access to education, employment opportunities, and public services and increasing their chances of detention or criminalization due to their status.


What are we being called to?

Consider the needs of migrants and people on the move in your country

Raise your voice to ensure policies and practices are human-rights based and non-discriminatory. Call on governments to:

  • Improve access to legal identity and adequate documentation
  • Strengthen measures to reduce statelessness
  • Ensure access to basic services
  • Address the negative drivers of migration and forced displacement
  • Expand regular migration pathways
  • Create alternatives for people on never-ending temporary visa status


Spread the word across your social media platforms by sharing Breaking Boundaries: A Mercy Response to People on the Move and Mercy Global Action’s infographic on Meeting Needs and Upholding Rights on social media. 


Download the Infographic
Back to All News