Catholic organisations have called on European leaders to alter restrictive EU migration policies in a bid to prevent refugees from taking deadly journeys.
While interior ministers meet tomorrow to discuss EU migration policies, people trying to reach the safety of Europe continue to die en route. Caritas Europa and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe have called on European leaders to alter their restrictive approach to migration. Policies focused on deterrence, including the agreement with Turkey, are not stopping people from trying to reach our countries. Instead, they prolong suffering and push people into the hands of smugglers and traffickers, who find even more dangerous entry routes.
“I couldn’t find any other way to come to Europe,” a young Syrian woman told Caritas Greece staff a few days ago. “I wished there were a safe way, a legal one. Being smuggled to cross over to Greece was my only alternative. I knew it was a dangerous thing to do, but I was desperate. I had to cross to save my life and what is left of my soul.” The young woman fled Syria alone. She was sexually abused on the way and had to turn to smugglers to cross the Aegean Sea and save herself from her abuser.
According to latest reports, over 1,000 migrants have died in less than a week while trying to cross the Mediterranean. Their desperate attempt to reach the EU shows how dire and terrifying their situation is. Caritas Europa and JRS Europe are appalled by the continuous suffering of so many people and stand in solidarity with these women, men and children.
“Like Pope Francis, Caritas dreams of a Europe that acknowledges the necessary contribution of migrants to our societies and commits to respecting the dignity of every human being,” said Jorge Nuño Mayer, Secretary General of Caritas Europa.
Jean-Marie Carrière, Regional Director of JRS Europe, added, “Europe has the power to save and protect people. It’s a just question of political will to provide safe ways for people to enter Europe without risking their lives. It’s time to defend and apply the very Refugee Convention that Europeans set up after World War II and to act upon our founding values.”
Caritas Europa and JRS Europe are calling on the EU and especially its Member States to:
Open safe and legal channels of entry into the EU;
Introduce a humanitarian visa, which is affordable and easily accessible via any EU embassy in countries of origin and transit;
Facilitate family reunification for refugees and migrants, hence fostering integration in receiving countries;
Extend the humanitarian admission programmes;
Engage in more resettlement;
Lift visa requirements when justified on humanitarian grounds.
Picture: Migrants and refugees in a rubber dinghy arriving on the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, Kos, Greece. (Jonathan Brady/PA).