(Vatican Radio) European Bishops have deplored the “unacceptable loss of life”
of at least 29 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and and are calling for “greater
clarity and greater political will among all of the EU member states on an acceptable
resolution of the refugee crisis”.
Just over two months have gone by since Pope Francis appealed to European policy-makers not to allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard. But migrants continue to die during the dangerous crossing as they seek to flee poverty and conflict.
In the latest tragedy of the sea 29 migrants have died of hypothermia and others are in serious condition after they were picked up from inflatable boats by Italian coastguard vessels.
Their overcrowded boats were in trouble in stormy waters between the Island of Lampedusa and Libya. Officials described the weather conditions as extreme with high waves and temperatures just a few degrees above zero. The migrants then spent about 18 hours on the decks of the small patrol boats taking them to Lampedusa, buffeted by high winds and spray. At least 29 died en route.
The tragedy is being blamed on the new downsized EU border control operation known as Triton.
It replaces Italy’s “Mare Nostrum” search and rescue mission which saved scores of lives but was ended last year.
Father Patrick Daly is Secretary General of Comece – the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. Speaking to Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni he says the bishops stand fully behind the Holy Father regarding the urgent necessity to protect the lives of people who are “already in desperate need and the question of their access to Europe and due process when they get to our shores”.
Listen to the interview:
Speaking of the Bishops’ concern for the vulnerability of the people concerned, both during their journey, and when they are received in Europe, Father Daly says the primary concern of the European Bishops is obviously a pastoral and humanitarian one.
He says however that Comece is working closely with its dialogue partners in Brussels “for greater clarity and greater political will among all of the EU member states on an acceptable resolution of the refugee crisis”.
Father Daly concedes that the Dublin Agreements leave a certain ambivalence as regards which nations are called to take responsibility for the issue, however he says “there is a growing sense of urgency within Europe about a EU-wide, Europe-wide commitment to help solve the refugee problem” and to lift much of the weight from Italy and to share it as much as possible.
He says the Bishops “have discussed on a number of occasions the sharing of this responsibility in regard to the reception of the migrants who come to our shores”.
Pointing out that we must not underestimate the large number of refugees and migrants rescued in the past months during the “Mare Nostrum” operation and recognising the work of new rescue programmes, Father Daly says we must salute the work of the rescue services.
“There is no public official who will not do all that is within his power to rescue people in need” he says.
Clearly – Father Daly says - we need “a more coordinated policy in this area, but also the EU as a whole must do all that it can to help the countries of transit from which many of our migrants come”.
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