In order to solve the Channel migrant crisis, France and the UK must work together to come up with a solution that is agreed by all, the Bishop for Migration has urged.
Bishop Paul McAleenan’s call came as more than 1,000 migrants arrived in the UK in 10 days after crossing the Channel in small boats.
“The present traffic of refugees and migrants in the English Channel requires a solution, on that everyone is agreed,” Bishop McAleenan told The Catholic Universe.
The bishop recalled how at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic,
Pope Francis said: “We can only get out of this situation together as a whole humanity”, and while that statement was in response to the virus, it could also easily be applied to the situation in the Channel.
“The Governments of the UK and France need to work together to assist those struggling, recognising that they are dealing with people who have already escaped persecution and danger in their own countries,” said Bishop McAleenan. “They are still trying to escape. We see unseaworthy craft in the water, but there is another reality, a story behind the headlines. Each individual in those vessels in the sea has a history, the pain of which they are trying to flee.
“Why are they attempting to reach the UK? Providing the true answer to this question is essential, among other things it will help to allay the fears of the British public,” he added.
Bishop McAleenan paid tribute to voluntary organisations in northern France and on the south coast of England who, he said, “in word and action have made it clear that it is our obligation to assist those in danger and to go to the aid of the deprived”.
“In March when referring to pandemic Pope Francis also said that all ‘are in the same boat’,” the bishop recalled. “Metaphorically, that is where the supporters of the refugees are, it is where those who are formed by Christ’s teachings should be, willing to be on the side of the afflicted.”
Amid calls by some politicians for the Royal Navy to help Border Force tackle the Channel migrant crisis, Bishop McAleenan stressed that should the Navy be deployed there, “its mission should be humanitarian”.
“The element of assistance and concern for welfare was included when the citizens of the UK were informed of the reasons for our military involvement in the countries from which some of the refugees come. More than ever that sentiment needs to continue.”
According to analysis by the PA news agency, 1,004 migrants were brought ashore by Border Force between 4th and 13th August. This takes the total so far this year to at least 4,511, more than double the amount thought to have crossed during the whole of 2019.
Picture: A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers. (Steve Parsons/PA).