Church groups warn EU - inaction after Lesbos refugee tragedy 'will lead to blame and shame before history'

Church groups warn EU: inaction after Lesbos refugee tragedy “will lead to blame and shame before history”

(Source: CD/Community of Sant’Egidio)

These are the words that Pope Francis forcefully repeated Sunday at the Angelus: it is necessary to “do our part towards giving migrants, refugees and asylum seekers a humane and dignified welcome in Europe”.

The Community of Sant’Egidio, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Missionary Sisters of San Carlo Borromeo (Scalabrinians), in support of the Pope’s message, launch an appeal: after the fire that destroyed the camp and created enormous difficulties for those people already living in hell, may the situation never go back to the way it was.

The European Union, in cooperation with the Greek Government, must intervene immediately to welcome and integrate an amount of people which is doubtlessly within its reach.

Important decisions must be taken urgently, in the coming hours, to save the most vulnerable ones, starting with the sick, women and children.

Only by giving priority to the path of dialogue and peaceful relations will it be possible to reach a solution in the interests of all. But delaying or, worse, turning a blind eye to the problem while a new permanent precariousness is established – at the expense of those refugees who have been living on the island for months, some of them for years – will seriously affect the image of Europe and turn it into a guilty continent instead of being a symbol of respect for human rights.

It would lead it to blame and shame before history.

The three organisations mentioned above promoting this appeal – and which have been caring for the refugees in Lesbos and throughout Greece, with numerous initiatives – call in particular for:

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– finding, as soon as possible, small accomodations with facilities for those who are displaced as a consequence of the fire that destroyed the Moria camp;

– ensuring free access to humanitarian organisations in order to assist refugees in their most immediate needs, especially as far as the sick, women, children and the elderly are concerned;

– deciding, both at the EU level and at the level of individual European countries, on the necessary relocation not only of unaccompanied minors but also of vulnerable families and individuals from the island;

– changing the reception model on the islands for new arrivals from Turkey by providing reception facilities on a transitional basis that are manageable and respectful of human dignity, thus safeguarding the right of every refugee, whatever their origin, to seek asylum.

The three promoters of this appeal recall that, since February 2016, the experience of the humanitarian corridors was also created and launched, in Lesbos, by Pope Francis himself, when he decided on April 16th, 2016 – with the support of the Office of Papal Charities and the Community of Sant’Egidio – to take with him on his plane the first three families, for a total amount of 67 refugees.

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We must continue on this path, together with other alternative programs  of access to international protection, in order to keep on saving refugees through networking with many associations, parishes and ordinary citizens who are willing to receive with great generosity.

“The experiences already begun in some countries show that the possibilities of good reception are higher than hoped”, recalled Cardinals Krajewski, Hollerich and Czerny in their letter to European Bishops’ Conferences dated January 28th.

For this reason we also hope that the European Bishops’ Conferences will urge their respective governments to develop new projects for reception and integration.

These two practices are not just good for refugees, but in terms of values and future, for all European citizens.

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On Novena, more Church reactions to the tragedy on Lesbos:

Rebuilding Moria is not the answer: Europe needs to radically rethink its response to refugees

Caritas Greece insists “ticking bomb” of Moria refugee camp “should never have existed”, pleads with EU for common migration policy

13/9: Angelus: In wake of Moria fires, Pope pleads for a “humane and dignified welcome” for refugees in Europe

Cardinal Krajewski leads Church outrage over Moria refugee camp fires, denounces “inhumane” EU migrant policy “killing” new arrivals


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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.