Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: December 18, 2018

INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights social and educational programs assisting young migrants

Programs in Mexico and in countries in Europe and Africa illustrate the Salesians focus on ensuring young migrants have access to the education and social supports they need.

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 18, 2018) Salesian Missions joins the International Organization for Migration and organizations around the globe in honoring International Migrants Day. Each year, International Migrants Day is held on Dec. 18 to recognize the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide. On Dec. 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed Dec. 18 as International Migrants Day. On that day in 1990, the assembly had adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

According to the International Organization for Migration 2018 World Migration Report, there were 244 million migrants in 2015, 52 percent being male and 48 percent female. The number has been increasing over the years but remains stable to the increase in overall population, according to the report.

UNICEF notes that as of 2016, 28 million or 1 in 80 children in the world were living in forced displacement – this includes 12 million child refugees and child asylum seekers and 16 million children living in internal displacement due to conflict and violence. Nearly 15,000 people are displaced every day within African countries. UNICF has also noted that at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children who moved across borders were registered in 80 countries in 2015 and 2016.

Youth often leave their homelands in search of employment, education and a better way of life. Many youth choose or are forced to migrate to escape poverty, violence or conflict or are displaced due to the effects of war or climate change. The UN notes that youth are heavily represented in migration for humanitarian reasons including as refugees, asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors.

Salesian missionaries have cared for and provided educational services to youth migrants since the founding of Salesian Missions. Unaccompanied youth migrants are often faced with rejection, homelessness, exploitation and delinquency as they make their journey to find a new way of life.

“Salesian programs help young migrants adapt to their new environment through language training, human development and skills training and workforce development services as well as increasing access to jobs whether through self-employment or for hire,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “A lack of employment is one of the root causes of migration in countries that see high rates of youth migrating to seek a better life elsewhere. In addition to helping young migrants, Salesian missionaries are working to create new educational and employment opportunities in countries youth leave as an incentive for them to remain at home.”

To mark International Migrants Day 2018, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and social support to young migrants.


Since 1987, a Salesian Center in Tijuana has been providing services to migrants and poor youth living on the border between Mexico and the U.S. The goal of the project is to create an extensive educational network in areas where poor youth are at risk of social exclusion. The project took shape in Salesian oratories and educational centers where children grow up learning to share faith, culture and sports within their communities.

The Salesian Center acts as a hub for migrants who, in addition to much-needed material help, are offered a familiar and welcoming environment. They can access haircuts, changes of clothes, showers and an opportunity to call or make contact with their families. In addition, the center has a partnership with the Red Cross and local volunteer doctors who offer psychological and medical assistance.

The Padre Chava Refectory, also in Tijuana, helps migrants obtain or manage their official papers and documents and plays a very important role in caring for Haitian migrants who in recent months have flocked to Tijuana. In addition, Padre Chava acts as a hub for care packages containing items such as food and clothing that have been sent as aid to those in Mexico in response to recent earthquakes in the country. Each day at the Padre Chava Refectory, 900 to 1,200 meals are served with numbers increasing during Christmas, Easter and summer. Recently, the numbers have been increasing due to the influx of migrants. Salesian missionaries are already serving their maximum number of 1,200 breakfasts and they are preparing to continue at that pace.

The border between the U.S. and Mexico spans 1,969 miles and has more than 20 checkpoints along its route. Constant migration is taking place between the two countries with Mexican migrant workers traveling to U.S border towns seeking employment. Immigrants from both countries cross back and forth in addition to undocumented Mexicans being repatriated.

Most recently, Salesian missionaries have been providing services to more than 500 migrants who reached Tijuana, Mexico from the recent migrant caravan coming from Guatemala and Honduras.


Salesian centers across Spain serve more than 25,000 migrants and refugees through 40 projects with the help of 60 professionals and 200 volunteers. Salesian missionaries and their network of programs across Europe are assisting European countries with the ongoing refugee crisis. Salesian programs provide humanitarian and educational assistance to refugees by helping them become fully-integrated and independent within their new countries and homes.

“We provide cultural and language learning projects, support for the regularization of personal documents and other legal and judicial aspects, work placement, shelters for unaccompanied foreign minors and families, psychological support, promotion of non-discrimination, promotion of participation of migrant women, promoting healthy habits and positive parenting projects,” explains a Salesian missionary working in Spain.

Europe has been experiencing a refugee crisis of historic proportions, according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. In 2015, more than 1 million refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea to come to Europe.

In Germany, Italy, Spain, Egypt and Turkey, Salesian missionaries have developed programs to assist refugees and young migrants seeking services. Working at the local level and in collaboration with other social programs to respond to the crisis, missionaries with previous experience working with young migrants have started additional Salesian programs to address the needs of today’s youth. Many of the new programs focus on meeting the immediate humanitarian needs of newly-arrived migrants and then go on to address the need for education and employment. Missionaries are also working with local schools to help children adapt from refugee families into classrooms.


A Salesian Stop Human Trafficking campaign was launched in October 2015 by Salesian missionaries in Italy and raises awareness of the dangers of youth migration. With a focus on youth leaving countries in Africa in search of a better life in Europe, the campaign aims to prevent young migrants from becoming victims of crime and exploitation. The campaign is part of an initiative promoted by the Salesian-run International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS) and the Don Bosco Mission Association in Turin, Italy.

By providing analysis and research on the real reasons for migration, the Stop Human Trafficking campaign informs potential youth migrants of the risks of the journey and the real chances of success while giving individual guidance to those who want to leave. It works to deter young people from leaving countries where they are most at risk of human trafficking such as Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Senegal. In collaboration with Salesian missionaries in Africa, the campaign also raises funds to help with program development in targeted countries in Africa.

The project, which will span five years, is active in 14 Salesian programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and Liberia. It launched with an awareness campaign to inform thousands of youth and their parents of the many risks of traveling to Europe and the difficulties they may encounter once they reach their destination.

“Despite much media attention in Africa, people often ignore the dangers of these trips,” says Salesian Brother Giampietro Pettenon, president of the Don Bosco Mission in Turin, Italy. “The youth who come to Europe do not talk about it because of shame. We tell the parents the work of certain unscrupulous agencies and their proposals, which are scams. When they find out they start to dissuade their children from leaving.”

The second phase of the project has been providing short-term vocational courses in the most requested disciplines for each area including agriculture, livestock, hydraulics, mechanics, tailoring and information technology. Brother Pettenon notes, “Held by teachers and educators, there are nearly 1,000 courses offered which have trained close to 18,000 youth and their mothers.”

Once their training ends, youth and their mothers can contact local banks to obtain the necessary funding to acquire the tools needed to start a small business.


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