‘’They are men and women like us , our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life.’’ Pope Francis, 19-04-2015
Pope Francis expressed his heartfelt pain at the latest tragedy to befall migrants fleeing war and persecution. The boat carrying several hundred migrants capsised off the coast of Libya. This is but one of worst disasters seen in the Mediterranean migrant crisis. By lunch time on the 20th of April, a second boat ran aground off the coast of the Greek island of Rhodes, with the subsequent deaths of numerous migrants.
Since the start of 2014, nearly 200,000 people have been rescued at sea by Italy. All the EU countries are being called to respond more actively to help rescue and shelter migrants, desperate to escape war, persecution and poverty.
This emergency situation in the Mediterranean was placed at the top of the agenda of yesterday morning’s previously scheduled meeting of European Foreign Ministers, in Luxembourg, with Ministers observing a minute’s silence in prayer for those affected by the tragic drownings over both the weekend and Monday.
The Italian and Maltese Foreign Ministers made impassioned pleas to member States for greater solidarity in the provision of humanitarian aid and not to simply leave it to one or two countries. They called for greater resourcing of the Triton Initiative – funds, boats, helicopters and personnel.
At the heart of the matter is the problem of illegal trafficking of people. The exploitation of people fleeing for their lives, become ‘prey’ to traffickers. All of which poses the challenge for Justice Departments to address adequately the criminal activities of traffickers.
The European Union is due to publish a new Migration Strategy paper in May 2015, to address would-be migrants at their country of origin.
Arising from an urgently convened meeting of all European Justice and Home Affairs Ministers last evening, the European Union has devised a 10-point Plan which it is hoped will help to try to find ways to address this crisis
Some of the proposed plans to be considered at a special meeting of the European Council on the 23rd April, include:
- Provision of additional funds for search & recovery;
- Reinforcement of E U border control operations in the Mediterranean;
- Systematic efforts to capture and destroy vessels used by smugglers;
- Create a new programme of ‘’Rapid return’’ of migrants to their mother country;
- Develop a pilot programme to share re-settlement of migrants amongst the all EU Member States;
‘’What happened off the coast of Italy, what happens every day at the southern border of Europe, is unacceptable for a union that was built on the principles of solidarity, respect for human rights and dignity for all…We need to fight the trafficking of human beings… ‘’
(EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini – 20th April, 2015).
RENATE offers prayers that the European partners collaborate to act swiftly to stop the trafficking of people across the Mediterranean and create long-lasting measures which will put an end to war and strife, which cause so many to flee in search of safety and a better life.
Compiled by Anne Kelleher
RENATE Communications Person