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Vatican official says European practice on migrants is contradictory

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi (CNS)

The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva has called on European leaders to consider a more farsighted approach to the growing challenge migrants pose to the continent.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi has said that Europe is practicing a policy of contradictions in addressing an influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

“There are strong minority groups opposed to any acceptance or distribution of asylum seekers or migrants, while in fact Europe needs additional manpower,” Archbishop Tomasi said during a news conference on Friday.

“All demographic studies on Europe indicate that to maintain its present population and position, it needs more immigrants both to support social security and to provide manpower to get its industrial complex going,” he said.

Both experience and evidence show that immigration is good for the immigrants, the receiving country and the sending country, he said. But he also acknowledged that the initial impact for those seeking a new life in a new home and the host society can be problematic because of the “need for adjustment.”

“Education is important for both sides to overcome the initial impact by taking into account the long-range consequences that are beneficial to them,” he said.

Since January, Europe has seen in a surge in migrants with more than 100,000 traversing the dangerous Mediterranean, according to the United Nations.

Many migrants fortunate enough to survive the journey reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, a historic gateway into Europe. African migrants and Syrian refugees making the crossing from Libya are inundating the tiny island and bringing intense pressure on its inhabitants and the Italian government.

Lampedusa’s 5,000 residents have witnessed more than twice that number of migrants coming ashore in the hope of starting a new life in Europe, Cardinal Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Italy, told reporters during the press conference at the Palace of Nations.

Despite the influx, the residents of Lampedusa have been “very generous to the migrants, by providing food, a place to sleep and wash, and some basic necessities,” Cardinal Montenegro said.

The Catholic Church is working to help solve immediate problems facing the migrants, he said, with Caritas Internationalis, the church’s aid agency, providing food, shelter and assistance in finding employment.

Archbishop Tomasi said the church also is aiding governments struggling with the crisis.

“There is an effort to influence policy by articulating the argument about why immigrates should be respected,” the archbishop told Catholic News Service.

“It’s because they are part of our human family. We have a responsibility to each without limit, but that which takes into account the common good,” he said.