Church and Christian organisations call for concerted action in refugee crisis

Ahead of a meeting of the European Council, five European ecumenical organisations have written to EU political leaders urging action on the refugee and migrant crisis. The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), the Conference of European Churches (CEC), Eurodiaconia, EU-CORD, and ACT Alliance EU call on European governments to fulfill their promises and obligations under international law.

The letter calls on the EU to increase civilian search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean region, while at the same time creating safe and legal passages for refugees and appropriate support services once in Europe. Safe passage must include sizable refugee resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, as well as private sponsorships and family reunion, among other mechanisms. Such an approach is necessary to prevent refugees from risking their lives or resorting to smugglers.

The refugee crisis is a challenge for both the EU and its neighbourhood, requiring extensive cooperation and collaboration with countries beyond the EU´s external borders. The letter expresses concern with the proposed EU-Turkey deal, which includes a blanket return of refugees to Turkey and a so-called ‘one in, one out’ plan for Syrian refugees, leaving out refugees from other countries, such as Afghanistan and Eritrea.

”European states must not shift the responsibility for refugee protection on other countries, they have to share and take the responsibility and alleviate the countries most affected by the current refugee crisis, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey,” Doris Peschke, general secretary of CCME commented.

The letter welcomes EU participation in peace processes, and calls for enhanced efforts to end conflict in Syria. All must pay heed to the example set out by many people in Europe in welcoming refugees, providing services and humanitarian assistance and extending a hand of friendship. Together, CCME, CEC, Eurodiaconia, EU-CORD, and ACT Alliance EU call on European governments to develop more humane responses for refugee protection. Europe can and must do more to protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable among us.