Pope Francis meets with Amy Pope in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace Pope Francis meets with Amy Pope in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

IOM Director General: Pope Francis offers eloquent voice on migration

Following an audience with Pope Francis, Amy Pope, the Director General of the UN International Organization for Migration, praises the Holy Father’s passionate advocacy regarding migration and laments how migrants are often vilified in election years.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis met Friday with Amy Pope, Director General of the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), during a private audience in the Apostolic Palace.

In their conversation, the Pope and Ms. Pope shared a joke about their meeting being “an opportunity for the two Popes to meet.”

“I have to admit it was a real pleasure for me to meet the Pope,” she said afterwards in an interview with Vatican News, adding that she thanked the Holy Father (another papal moniker which might cause less confusion) for his advocacy on behalf of migrants around the world.

“He’s an incredible voice, and at this moment in time when so much of the rhetoric around migration is so negative, having someone like the Holy Father speak out so passionately and eloquently on the subject is incredibly important, not just for our organization, but for millions of people around the world.”

Recasting the narrative

According to Ms. Pope, the Holy Father constantly seeks to remind people that migration has a human face and involves real human lives.

“We're both mindful of the fact that half of the world is voting this year,” she said. “Unfortunately, in many conversations around elections migrants are being vilified and blamed for issues and problems within societies.”

However, she added, migration has many positive effects on host countries, fostering innovation and driving development.

Ms. Pope and the Holy Father shared their ideas about how to turn the issue of migration into a more positive narrative that reflects their contribution to societies around the world.

“We spoke about how we could work together to integrate migrants into communities, to create more welcoming communities, and to address some of the challenges that communities face when they see large influxes of migrants,” she said.

Ms. Pope and the Holy Father speak about migration issues
Ms. Pope and the Holy Father speak about migration issues

Regular pathways for migration

The International Organization for Migration is the UN agency dedicated to implementing projects to assist migrants, refugees, and internally displaced persons.

Pope Francis’ advocacy for migrants and the work of the IOM overlap in many ways, according to Ms. Pope.

Efforts to create safe and regular pathways for migration also loosens the grip that human traffickers and criminal networks have over people seeking irregular routes to other countries.

“It deprives criminal networks of the profit that they're making on the backs of extremely vulnerable people, and it can lead to better outcomes for people,” she said.

Seeking solutions for climate change

Pope Francis and Ms. Pope also spoke about the outsized impact climate change has on migration statistics.

“Last year, more people were displaced by climate impact than conflict,” she noted. “And if you put climate on top of communities that are vulnerable because of past or existing conflict, the situation actually becomes significantly worse.”

As part of its mission, IOM seeks to build resilience in communities that are vulnerable to climate change, so they are not forced to leave their homes.

At the same time, the agency explores ways to harness migration as a way to alleviate climate change.

“We know right now there are not enough people in the right places with the jobs or the skills needed to transition and meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Ms. Pope. “We need migration in order to meet those goals.”

Listen to the full interview

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26 January 2024, 15:42