Greater protections must be enacted to protect vulnerable migrants says leading church figure
One of the country’s leading clergymen is calling on the UK government to take immediate action to solve Europe’s migrant crisis.
Rt Rev John Chalmers, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, made the call after over 800 migrants died after their boat sank off the coast of Libya last week.
The government, he said, must give its support to European Council proposals to tackle the unfolding tragedy in the Mediterranean as well as more effective action to combat the people smugglers.
The moderator also wants to see the government commit to giving sanctuary to refugees in need of protection.
Chalmers said: “Like many people I have been devastated by the news of the hundreds of deaths of refugees seeking peace during the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean from Africa into Europe.
“The decision by EU governments, including the UK government, last year to cut back the humanitarian search and rescue mission was roundly criticised at the time. It saddens me greatly that the unheeded warnings about the consequences of not helping those in desperate need have been proven right.”
The EU has set out a package of measures to try to ease the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
Search-and-rescue operations will be stepped up, and there will be a campaign to destroy traffickers' boats.
A murder investigation has been opened into the disaster.
The moderator added that migrants seeking to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East are fleeing from man-made disasters including war, desperate poverty and persecution and deserve our help.
“These innocents are seeking sanctuary. As human beings, made in God’s image, they have equal value as you or I, and so we must do all we can to offer love and practical support,” he said.
The Church of Scotland’s St Andrew’s Scots Kirk in Valetta in Malta runs a project supporting migrants who reach the island raising over £100,000 to help fund its work.
It also supports the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), the Conference of European Churches, and the World Council of Churches in their joint calls for action.