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Member states must take responsibility for migrants, Christian leaders tell EU

25 September 2020

Christian leaders write before launch of new pact


The Covid-19 quarantine area in the new refugee camp in Kara Tepe-Mavrovouni, a former military area, near Mytilene, on Lesbos, last Saturday

The Covid-19 quarantine area in the new refugee camp in Kara Tepe-Mavrovouni, a former military area, near Mytilene, on Lesbos, last Saturday

CHRISTIAN leaders throughout Europe have called on the EU to ensure that every member state fulfils its obligations towards refugees and migrants — and acknowledges its responsibility for some of the reasons for the migration.

The EU was due to unveil its long-awaited Pact on Migration this week. The President of the European Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen, has said that “everyone has to do more and take responsibility” for migrants. The pact comes just weeks fires destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos (News 18 September), and left about 13,000 migrants homeless.

The extended statement from church leaders and organisations was issued before the publication of the pact, and its signatories represent the Anglican Communion, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, the World Council of Churches, and other religious and humanitarian groups.

“Solidarity should be the guiding principle governing migration and particularly refugee reception,” the statement says. “We expect the EU to reject the discourse and politics of fear and deterrence, and to adopt a principled stance and compassionate practice based on the fundamental values on which the EU is founded.”

The fire at Moria this month, it says, “exposed the fundamentally broken state of European migration policy and the suffering it has created: the desperation of people seeking protection who have often been forced to live for years in inhumane conditions, the anger and frustration of locals who feel that Europe has left them alone with the challenge of reception and care, the current response which has addressed the symptoms of a greater problem but not the actual case, and a reaction by the EU which expresses sympathy but shows no real commitment to helping those in need of protection as well as the Greek state and the local population hosting them.”

The church leaders reminded the EU that the number of asylum-seekers in Europe was only a small fraction of the number of refugees needing protection around the world, of whom 85 per cent were now living in developing countries.

Two-thirds of the world’s refugees live outside Europe, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa; poorer countries bear the brunt of looking after refugees and migrants.

Europe must take its share of responsibility for the problems that have led to the numbers fleeing their own countries, the church leaders say. “While the reasons for the displacement are diverse, a significant number of them — like economic injustice, climate change, the heritage of colonialism or conflicts — are closely related to past or present activities of European actors.”

The church leaders pledged to work to offer channels of safe passage, including helping with reuniting families, besides supporting migrants and local communities in Lesbos, and encouraging dialogue between different views on migration.

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