Bishop Patrick Lynch, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’s Office for Migration Policy, has said he is deeply concerned over the deepening humanitarian crisis involving thousands of migrants in Calais.
In a statement, Bishop Lynch, who is Auxiliary Bishop for Southwark, said: “The crisis has developed over a decade and challenges us all, both as Christians and as Europeans. We must face up to this reality at various levels. First, in solidarity with the most vulnerable migrants we recognise the local pastoral, humanitarian, and compassionate response from the French Church and call on the French authorities to redouble their efforts in providing adequate reception facilities for migrants.
“We acknowledge the work done by faith organisations in France and the UK together with charities, agencies and the great generosity of families and individuals to the relief efforts. The task is immense and their contributions are most valued. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales will be making a material contribution to those efforts.”
Bishop Lynch went on to say that the “the answer to the current migrant crisis lies beyond Calais” and that estimates from UNCHR, the UN refugee agency, indicate that “in the first six months of this year, 137,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea, travelling in terrible conditions upon unsafe boats and dinghies”.
“The 2014 estimate for the same period was 75,000. Therefore in addition to addressing the humanitarian needs of the increasing numbers of migrants undertaking this treacherous journey we must examine the root causes of current migration from North Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe,” the bishop added.
At least 5,000 migrants, many from Eritrea, Syria and Sudan, have been stranded in makeshift camps and shanty towns outside Calais, after travelling across Europe to reach Britain.
At least 10 have died since June as they jumped aboard trains and trucks entering the 32-mile tunnel, which opened in 1994 to the port of Dover, England. French police said 1,700 had attempted the crossing on the night of August 2; 700 were intercepted inside the freight terminal.
In his statement, Bishop Lynch also said that “we must face up to the shared responsibility of making the world a better and safer environment to live in”.
“We must examine as a matter of urgency the arms trade that fuels armed conflict and civil war, climate change, unjust economic policies, poverty and corruption as some of the underlying causes of this fundamental global trend. The safety of vulnerable women and children who may fall prey to smugglers and human traffickers is paramount and must be addressed,” he said.
“The current migration crisis is complex and there are no easy solutions for governments, non–governmental organisations, faith groups and charities working on the field. However, governments, charities and humanitarian aid agencies should be encouraged to work together for a collaborative international response to the challenge in partnership with the countries of origin.”
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