Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has highlighted Ireland’s latest brain-drain, which has seen third-level graduates account for a large majority of the Republic's young emigrants.
Speaking at the Global Migration and the Building of a Common Life conference in London's Notre Dame Centre, he also questioned whether international migration is simply a safety valve to ensure that the world can have a temporary, cheap workforce.
He said the brain-drain is not limited to developing countries, citing last month's University College Court study that found 62% of the Republic's recent young emigrants had a third-level qualification of three years or more.
Dublin's Catholic archbishop also recalled the recent drowning of hundreds of would-be immigrants off the Italian island of Lampedusa.
He asked if it is realistic simply to affirm a right to emigrate and yet not have international norms about the management of immigration.
Dr Martin called for international reflection on trafficking and on discrimination against foreign workers when they are denied rights enjoyed by indigenous workers.
He underlined that immigrants fill a labour need where the local workforce is insufficient or unwilling to engage in the work in question.
He emphasised that immigrants remain human beings who contribute to their new society by their work which - along with their worth - entitles them to rights and security for themselves and their families.
Archbishop Martin made his comments as Cork City Council considered a call for a regularisation scheme for undocumented migrants here.
The proposer, Labour Councillor Lorraine Kingston, said the scheme should be along the lines of the plan that our Government has lobbied for in the United States for our undocumented exiles there.
It is a system of regularisation that would afford undocumented migrants the opportunity to regularise their immigration status by “earning” temporary and permanent residency rights by actions such as working in paid jobs, paying taxes, gaining proficiency in English, and participating in their community.
Already all local councils in Dublin - with the exception of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown - have passed the motion, which reflects Labour Party policy.