The Community of Sant’Egidio, one of the Church’s key organisations on the frontline of the European refugee crisis, has said it appreciated new EU Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s call to “save human lives” in the Mediterranean.

Driving the news

“The Mediterranean has become the world’s most lethal frontier”, admitted von der Leyen in her confirmation speech in the European Parliament.

The former German Defence Minister and Christian Democratic Union politician – who was confirmed in her new post last week in a tight vote in Strasbourg – said “there is an obligation to save lives at sea”.

“We have to save lives, but we also have to reduce illegal immigration and fight against human traffickers”, said the new EU Commission leader.

According to International Organisation for Migration numbers, 683 refugees have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean so far this 2019.

Background on Novena:

Church figures welcome appointment of von der Leyen as EU Commission President

Go deeper

Sant’Egidio welcomed von der Leyen’s call to implement humanitarian corridors for refugees to ensure their escape from wars and injustices in their homelands along with their safe passage to Europe.

Since 2016, the Community has hosted and integrated more than 2,600 refugees by means of corridors in Italy, France, Belgium and Andorra, in concert with the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

”However, it is also a system that can be adopted on a wider scale by the European Union”, Sant’Egidio said.

“It is necessary for Europe to confront the phenomenon of immigration as a whole, opening new pathways to regular immigration”, the Community affirmed.

More on Novena:

Italian Church group welcomes 40 Syrian refugees to Rome

What’s next

Sant’Egidio is running a program this summer in which 150 volunteers will take turns spending time with refugees on the Greek islands of Samos and Lesbos.

The volunteers will give new arrivals English language courses and organise parties and games for the youngest among the refugees.

”The objective is to keep hope alive for those who have fled war or terrible living conditions in their home country and are now in a sort of ‘limbo’ which mainly weighs on the young who lose confidence in the future,” Sant’Egidio explained.

Some 7,000 refugees – mostly Afghan nationals – are currently registered on Lesbos. On Samos, most of the 5,000 refugees hail from sub-Saharan Africa.

Read next:

“No memory, no future”: Sant’Egidio invites youth to build “global friendship” for peace


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.