A Catholic bishop welcomed a government proposal for the Philippines to accept refugees from Afghanistan, calling it a “humane act.”
“To accept refugees is very humane and compassionate act, which is so inspiring, salvific, and very biblical,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People.
The prelate said the Philippines had hosted and helped refugees from other countries, especially the “boat people” from Vietnam in the past.
The bishop, however, warned that the government should be careful when accepting refugees during the pandemic.
“We have to be very careful, take necessary preventive measures, and apply all medical protocols for those whom we are going to accept,” said the bishop of the Diocese of Balanga.
The Philippine presidential palace has earlier announced that it will open its doors to people fleeing from Afghanistan.
“The Philippines will not hesitate to admit individuals fleeing their homelands because of fear of persecution,” said government spokesman Harry Roque.
He said “asylum seekers are welcome in the Philippines,” adding that it is consistent with the country’s long history of taking in asylum seekers since the first World War.
In 1922, the country accepted about 800 Russians who were fleeing from the socialist revolution in the country.
During the Second World War, European Jews came to the Philippines to escape Nazi rule.
“Since time immemorial, the Philippines has had jurisprudence … welcoming asylum seekers,” said Roque.
On Wednesday, Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila offered a prayer for the people of Afghanistan, following the call of Pope Francis early this week for prayers.
“We hope that everyone will set aside violence and instead open their minds to dialogue,” said the prelate in an interview with Radio Veritas 846.
The prelate also expressed his hope for the respect of human rights and the safety of everyone.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Philippines has an “emergency transit mechanism” for people whose status as refugees is recognized by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“If Afghan nationals do arrive in the Philippines and apply for permanent status as refugees, the [Justice department] will evaluate whether they meet the international standards for refugee status,” he said.