Frankfurt am Oder, on the frontier between Germany and Poland, is where thousands of migrants each year try to fulfil their dream of entering the European Community. Many are exploited by traffickers, and some fall victim to tragic accidents; in the last ten years, at least 80 bodies have been fished out of the Oder river. Caritas works here caring for the sans papiers, while the German border police work at trying to keep them out. The Polish-German border was just one of the visits made by some fifty European Jesuits meeting in Berlin at the end of August in a congress called The faces of migration, organised by EUROJESS, an association that since the 1960s has been bringing Jesuits together involved in the social sciences. Their reflections on migratory phenomena ranged from cross-disciplinary theory to analysis of the experience of Jesuits who meet immigrants in parishes, in prisons, in schools or in refugee centres.
Other site visits included the Köpenik detention centre for clandestine immigrants on the outskirts of Berlin. In European countries the question of migrants is addressed in terms of the fear they inspire in the citizens, and policies aim solely to check or stem the phenomenon as much as possible. A reluctant tolerance, which half-heartedly seeks to assimilate the immigrants into the host society, must turn into a true culture of welcome. A society that does not enshrine respect for the transcendent value of every person is edging towards theoretical and practical violence, as measures adopted in the area of migration often betray, and this is to transgress the very commandment of God: Love the stranger then, because you also were strangers in the land of Egypt (Book of Deuteronomy, 10:19).