THE Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis have demanded that
European nations take in more of the migrants who are 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 deaths
prompted Archbishop Welby to call for a united effort to prevent
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.
"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
His intervention echoed that of the Pope's on Saturday, when the
latter said that Italy could not cope with the thousands of
migrants attempting to reach Europe in ramshackle vessels.
More details have emerged about the latest capsize of a migrant
boat. Italian prosecutors said that the captain of a ship that was
packed with migrants, and which sank on Saturday, accidentally
crashed his vessel into a rescue ship. Only 28 people survived.
The captain, Mohammed Ali Malek, a Tunisian, has been arrested,
accused of causing a shipwreck, multiple homicides, and being an
accomplice to clandestine immigration.
The International Organization for Migration has warned that the
death toll in the Mediterranean this year is already 30 times
higher than last year, when the Italian navy was conducting a more
comprehensive search-and-rescue mission.
Many of those cramming into the decrepit boats are fleeing
violence and religious persecution. The Italian police said last
week that they had arrested 15 Muslim migrants who had arrived on a
boat, on suspicion of throwing at least nine Christian fellow
asylum-seekers into the sea.
The police said that 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
The Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, the Ven. Jonathan Boardman,
said on Tuesday that the Italian Church was committed to saving
migrants, but that Christians elsewhere needed to step up their
"The Church in Italy is entirely on the side of the migrants,"
he said. "The work on Lampedusa [an Italian island, the destination
of many migrants] is putting the Church's money where its mouth
Archdeacon Boardman said that he had met the local Roman
Catholic Archbishop and parish priest in Lampedusa, and it was
clear that they were "working flat out" in the crisis. The diocese
in Europe also gave about £20,000 from its charity appeal to a
charity in Lampedusa last year.
But Archdeacon Boardman said that he agreed with Archbishop
Welby and Pope Francis: the crisis could be solved only if
Christians across Europe - not just in the Mediterranean - made a
"The message [of compassion to migrants] isn't getting through,
because the majority of Anglicans will vote Conservative or UKIP,"
he said. "They need to start supporting political programmes that
don't set up barriers."
The Global Freedom Network, an ecumenical project (News, 21 March
2014), was, he said, also vital in the effort to save lives at
sea, by destroying the networks which smuggle people across the
The General Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Migrants
in Europe, Doris Peschke, said that only "legal and safe pathways"
into Europe, and resettling more refugees, would stop more
tragedies at sea.
The Mission to Seafarers director of justice and public affairs,
Canon Ken Peters, said on Tuesday that those responsible for
responding to the disasters in the Mediterranean should not be
forgotten by the Church.
"In going to the rescue, they may well put their own lives at
risk," he said. "They don't go to help out of an obligation, but
because they want to offer a genuine helping hand."
He said that, when smaller boats of migrants were intercepted by
the coastguard or naval vessels, the migrants could be taken on
board for weeks at a time while a port that would accept them was
"I absolutely accept it is a humanitarian crisis, and people
must deal with it as it happens, but is there a suggestion that we
must accept all people into Europe?" Canon Peters said. "It's not a
maritime problem, but a problem with a failed state."
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