Wise Men have been ‘stolen’ from manger scenes in churches in Germany to denounce the European Union’s treatment of refugees.

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Two of the three kings whose arrival to see the baby Jesus is celebrated today on the Feast of the Epiphany have disappeared from cribs in churches in Berlin, Bielefeld, Darmstadt, Cologne and Münster, among other places, Thorsten Meinholdt, one of the spokesmen for the campaign Ausgegrenzt – Dreikönige vor den Toren Europas (“Excluded – Three Kings at the Gates of Europe”), told news agency KNA.

The motive for the ‘thefts’: the “European walls-up policy” that has prevented the two kings from “welcoming the newborn refugee child Jesus of Nazareth”, added spokeswoman Rosa Frahm.

One of the Wise Men “is stuck in the Moria camp on Lesbos”, denounced Frahm, while another “is being held in the Deggendorf detention centre”.

“His petition to greet the Messiah with gifts was rejected as being obviously unfounded. To enforce his deportation more effectively, he was not allowed to leave the district”, Frahm explained, in an ironic allusion to bureaucratic asylum-seeker treatment speak.

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The aim of the thefts of the Wise Men was to draw attention to the “serious humanitarian emergency in the refugee camps on the European external borders and within Europe” and to the “inhumane accommodation” in the so-called anchor centres or AnkER-Zentren, the German acronym for Arrival, Decision and Municipal Distribution or Return Centres.

The ‘burglars’ seek the closure of all migrant, refugee and asylum seeker camps in Europe and the relocation of all their internees in countries around Europe.

Spokesman Meinholdt told the KNA that the reaction to the campaign from churches had been mostly positive, and that “where there was criticism, we brought the figures back immediately”.

In each of the churches whose manger scenes the activists plundered, they left a note explaining their action, with a promise to bring the figures back intact after Epiphany.

Why it matters

The UNHCR denounced in October that reception centres on the Greek Aegean islands are “dangerously overcrowded”.

“The situation on Lesvos, Samos and Kos is critical. The Moria centre on Lesvos is already at five times its capacity with 12,600 people”, the UN Refugee Agency decried, adding that “keeping people on the islands in these inadequate and insecure conditions is inhumane and must come to an end”.

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