Responding to the Migrant Crisis in 2018

The 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees to be marked on 14th January.


Image courtesy of


One hundred and three years after the first World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the mass movement of people continues to dominate international headlines.

The first World Day of Migrants and Refugees took place in January 1915. The event came into being as World War I began to leave its mark on Europe and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes.

Around that time, upwards of 250,000 Belgians left their homeland and travelled to the UK who had opened their borders and hearts as part of the ‘war effort’. The majority of the refugees later returned home after the war ended.

Fast forward to January 2018, millions of men, women and children are on the move.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), large displacements of people continue across the world including in the Mediterranean, East Africa, Nigeria and the Bay of Bengal region of Asia.

A migrant is a person who makes a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere.The Pontifical Council FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF MIGRANTS AND ITINERANT PEOPLe mentioned specifically those wh (3).png

In 2017, over 170,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea with Nigerians and Syrians accounting for largest proportion. This compares to over 360,000 people who made a similar journey in 2016. Over one million men, women and children made the crossing in 2015. The numbers have dropped significantly since then as Turkey no longer allows refugees and migrants to enter Europe and those attempting to reach Italy are being returned to Libya. The majority of those now entering Europe do so via Spain.

The most recent UNHCR data shows the number of Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Nigeria currently stands at 1.7 million men, women and children. Many of these people are currently in Nigerian controlled areas of the Lake Chad Basin while smaller numbers are in areas of the Basin which fall under the jurisdiction of Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The main reasons for the mass exodus has been attributed to the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency. Climate change is also reported to be exacerbating the refugee crisis with the continued shrinking of Lake Chad.


The Chad Basin is located within the area marked in red. Image courtesy of


UNHCR figures also show that 427,000 citizens have fled the political unrest in Burundi since April 2015. 254,000 of these people are now refugees in Tanzania.

Since the latest phase of the refugee crisis began in Myanmar last August, the UNHCR estimate that 655,000 Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State in southwestern Myanmar have sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.


A map of the Bay of Bengal Region courtesy of


In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, Pope Francis outlines concrete ways we can help using the four verbs of action: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.

The pontiff reminds us that ‘every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ...’ and this is a sentiment that many groups have embraced.

The OLA Sisters in Nigeria continue to respond to the large numbers of Internally Displaced People (IDP) within the country with initiative such as the Maria Centre in Abuja. The centre offers women an opportunity to learn skills to enable them to earn an income.

The OLA Sisters in Italy are also collaborating with many organisations to assist migrants. In Genoa they work with Caritas while they also support migrants at parish level. 

In city of Marino, just south of Rome, the OLA Sisters have provided a building where migrants live while waiting for their documents to be processed.

In Ireland, the OLA Sisters continue to support migrants in places such as Cork and Dublin. In recent times, Sr. Juliana Fayad, a fluent Arabic speaker, came from her native Lebanon to support Arabic speaking refugees from Syria and other countries who are now in Ireland. 

Another positive development has been the spread of the Fáilte Isteach [Translates as ‘welcome in’] movement which now has groups across Ireland. According to its website, Fáilte Isteach ‘welcomes migrants through conversational English classes’.


Location of Fáilte Isteach groups across Ireland. Image courtesy of


In Monaghan Town, the local Fáilte Isteach branch has gone one step further by setting-up a Language Café. According to the Sisters of St. Louis’ Mission Musings November 2017 newsletter, migrants can now ‘teach their own language to Irish people who want to improve/learn new language skills. People from Congo and Togo are willing to teach French, Bolivians are teaching Spanish, and Arabic and Russian are also available’.  The Language Café is hosted in a local Coffee Shop for two hours every Wednesday night.

Marie Cannon SSL, Marie Dalton SSL, Feda Sulieman and Waleed from Syria.jpg

Pictured above at the Language Café are Sr. Marie Cannon SSL (left) and Sr. Betty Dalton SSL (second from left) with members of Fáilte Isteach Monaghan. Pictured below are more members of Fáilte Isteach Monaghan at the Language Café. Images courtesy of the St. Louis Sister's Flickr page.

Usman Pakistan, Kmaes Libya, Malenga Congo, Abwe Congo, Bianca South Africa.jpg

Stories like these give great hope. However, attention will again focus back on the world stage in the coming months. Leaders from across the globe have committed to drafting and approving two Global Compacts before the end of 2018 - one for migrants and the other for refugees.

This upcoming deadline is noted by the pontiff’s in his World Day of Refugees and Migrants message. Pope Francis believes each global citizen has a ‘unique opportunity’ to ensure these ideals become a reality.

The coming months offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support the concrete actions which I have described with four verbs.  I invite you, therefore, to use every occasion to share this message with all political and social actors involved (or who seek to be involved) in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts.

The Argentinean-born pontiff concludes the message by referring to the Lord’s ‘supreme commandment’ that may we ‘all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves’.



Sr Mary Crowley provides an insight into the life of migrants living in Ireland

UNHCR reports on the 15 active humanitarian 'situations' across the world

One Meal a Day: The Lake Chad Crisis

Pope Francis' World Day of Refugees and Migrants message

Responding to a Multicultural City: Sr Joan Murray on the work of the Lantern Centre

Sr Majella McCarron on the seeking asylum in Ireland

Further information on the Fáilte Isteach movement