THE Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope have demanded European
nations take in more migrants fleeing North Africa and the Middle
East, days after hundreds were feared to have died after their
boats sank in the Mediterranean.
Up to 400 migrants were believed to have drowned when their boat
capsized last week, but as many as 900 people could have died after
another boat sank near the coast of Libya on Saturday. The death
toll has prompted Archbishop Welby to call for a united effort to
prevent more deaths.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: "We can't say this is one
country's responsibility, the one nearest, that's not right.
"Of course we have to be aware of the impact of immigration in
our own communities but when people are drowning in the
Mediterranean, the need, the misery that has driven them out of
their own countries is so extreme, so appalling that Europe as a
whole must rise up and seek to do what's right.
"It will be demanding and that's why the burden must be spread
across the continent and not taken by just one country or one
His intervention echoed that of Pope Francis's on Saturday, when
he said that Italy could not cope with the thousands of migrants
attempting to cross the sea into Europe in ramshackle vessels.
"I want to express my gratitude for Italy's undertaking in
welcoming the numerous migrants seeking refuge at the risk of their
lives," he said. "It is evident that the proportions of the
phenomenon demand much greater involvement. We must not tire in our
attempts to solicit a more extensive response at the European and
On Monday, the International Organisation for Migration said
that it had learnt there were three more boats in the Mediterranean
which had issued distress calls. However, the Italian coastguard
was reportedly struggling to reach them as they were still busy
dealing with the weekend's shipwrecks.
David Cameron has spoken with the prime ministers of Italy and
Malta, which has also seen boats full of migrants sink close to
their shores. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "The Prime
Minister agreed that the EU needed to respond urgently to address
the crisis to try to prevent further deaths. All three leaders
agreed that the criminal networks behind human traffickers were
primarily to blame for this tragedy, and that the highest priority
had to be action to disrupt their activities."
The Guardian reported that the death toll in 2015 was
more than 900, compared to just 50 in 2014 when the Italian navy
was conducting a more comprehensive search and rescue mission in
the waters between Italy and northern Africa.
Many of those cramming into the decrepit boats are fleeing
violence and persecution in Libya and Syria. The Italian police
said last week that they had arrested 15 Muslim migrants who had
arrived from a boat on suspicion of throwing at least nine
Christian fellow asylum seekers into the sea.
The police said that, based on testimony of the other migrants
on board, the men had got into a dispute with the Christians before
a fight broke out. They have been arrested on suspicion of
"multiple murders, aggravated by religious hatred".