BY Daniel Harkins | April 21 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


European bishops call for return of search and rescue missions following migrant tragedy

Cardinal Reinhard Marx says recent death of 1000 migrants in the Mediterranean calls into question how seriously the European Union considers the values on which it was founded

The bishops of Europe have called for the reinstatement of pro-active search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea after more than 1000 migrants died trying to cross into Europe from Africa in the last ten days.

In a press statement, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), said that if the EU ‘gives serious credit to its convictions,’ it will choose to reinstate the instruments of Mare Nostrum and expand the mission Triton on the protection of the European Union’s external borders.

Mare Nostrum was an Italian military search and rescue programme which was ended due to a lack of funding which followed many EU countries’ pulling support amid concern it was encouraging desperate African migrants to make the perilous journey across the sea.

It was replaced with Triton, a border protection operation with less funding and covering less area.

On Saturday, Pope Francis called for a more extensive response from Europe after an estimated 800 migrants drowned after fleeing conflict-stricken Libya.

In the press statement, Cardinal Marx states the recent tragedy ‘raises questions as to how seriously the European Union considers the values, so often referred to, on which it is founded.’

“The recent disaster in the Mediterranean represents a defeat for everything that makes the European Union a community of values,” he goes on. “The EU cannot remain unmoved by this human catastrophe. It is clear that the EU attracts refugees, it is also clear that traffickers exploit the willingness of EU border control to rescue their victims, and it is regrettable that sufficient action is not being taken in their countries of origin to counter the reasons which make them feel they must leave. But all this does not justify us in ignoring the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean and which the European Union is facing.

“Politics in Europe has often deplored the deaths of refugees without drawing conclusions. This tragedy now pushes European countries to take drastic measures against this dramatic situation. Europe’s response will be a litmus test for European values. If the EU gives serious credit to its convictions, it will choose to reinstate the instruments of Mare Nostrum and expand the mission Triton on the protection of the EU’s external borders. The rescue of lives in the Mediterranean cannot remain a mere political issue. This is a real human duty and a requirement of the moral aspiration of Europe.”

The cardinal goes on to say that statements from politicians need ‘practical follow-up at the meeting of the heads of state and government on Thursday: Europe must now work to find concrete proposals for the establishment of human asylum and migration policies supported and implemented in solidarity by all member states of the European Union.’

“Every reasonable step must be taken to avoid a tragedy such as Saturday’s ever occurring again,” he states. “The heads of state and government can no longer postpone indefinitely the problematic of migrants as soon as the current tragedy disappears from the headlines.

“Our prayers are for the victims of this disaster and their families. We do not pray with our eyes closed, rather but with eyes opened to those in need.”

Yesterday Bishop Patrick Lynch, bishop for migration at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, called on all EU member states to ‘involve themselves in the relief efforts and to work collaboratively to find a swift, just, effective and compassionate solution to these humanitarian disasters.’

Pic: Rescued migrants from Saturday’s boat sinking lie on the deck of the Italian coast guard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, Malta


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