International church organizations have urged the European Union (EU) to do more to protect asylum-seekers and to prevent immigrants being portrayed as "potential criminals."

"A person who exercises his or her right to search for better living conditions should not be considered a criminal simply for doing so," according to a document presented to the European Commission, the EU's executive body, by the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), Caritas Europa and other organizations.

"Human dignity is fundamental and has to be respected, regardless of whether someone has documents or not. The churches stand for this in society and call on the EU to do so as well."

The ecumenical paper said that migration had become a "permanent global phenomenon," brought on by oppression and conflict, as well as poverty, drought and unemployment. It added that European colonialism had been a root cause of "still existing economic, political and cultural domination," and said that churches recognized a human right to travel in search of better conditions.

"We are aware that an 'open door policy' is not conceivable, and that a migration policy will certainly not solve the challenges of global imbalance," declares the text, which was also signed by the Catholic Commission of the EU Bishops' Conferences (COMECE) and International Catholic Migration Commission, as well as the Jesuit Refugee Service, Quaker European Affairs Council and Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions.

"But a future EU immigration policy should take as its starting point Europe's heritage as an area of exchange and mutual enrichment, recalling the historical benefits of migrants in European societies. A European Union that promotes freedom of movement ...

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