Ecumenical News International

Refugee policy: churches want to mediate

June 12, 2015

Rome (epd). In view of the rising refugee figures at its southern borders, Italy is hoping for more solidarity in the EU. It is a moral and legal duty of all Europeans to receive the people who have crossed the Mediterranean, said Senate president Pietro Grasso at a meeting between politicians and Protestant church representatives from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Prefect Mario Morcone, responsible for migration questions in the Italian interior ministry, spoke out in favour of a lasting and binding quota solution to the distribution of refugees. In order to reduce the number of boat people, the two politicians are banking on a stabilization of Libya, from where most boats set out to sea.

More just distribution, combat smugglers

Representatives of the delegation from NRW also underlined that if Europe understands itself as a community of values, receiving refugees and migrants must be coped with collectively. "We need more political cooperation on this issue," said Albert Henz, theological vice-president of the Evangelical Church of Westphalen. The churches could use their ecumenical contacts with churches in Italy and Greece to mediate between countries. Marc Herter, manager of the SPD parliamentary party in the NRW state parliament, stated that distributing refugees on a quota basis within the EU was falling on open ears in Germany.

Senate president Grasso also said it was important to combat the gangs of people smugglers who "profit from people's misery". Furthermore, it was imperative to stabilize Libya politically, he added. Italy could imagine playing a leading role in relations with this state in North Africa.

Disagreement in Italy as well

Prefect Morcone stated that Italy was willing to make concessions regarding the issue of a quota system for refugees. In view of the resistance from France and Spain he was sceptical about whether such an arrangement could be implemented in the EU. The different Italian regions also disagreed with regard to the distribution of refugees, according to Morcone. Sicily was taking 22 percent of all asylum seekers remaining in Italy, he said, while some more affluent regions in the North took only three percent.

Recently a group of members of the North Rhine-Westphalian parliament visited refugee camps and aid projects in southern Italy and Greece, accompanied by experts and representatives of the Evangelical Churches in the Rhineland and Westphalia. The five-day fact-finding tour on the invitation of the two churches was intended to enable politicians and church leaders to gain a full picture of the situation on the ground. Their findings are to feed into the future direction of refugee policy and church work with asylum seekers and migrants in Germany. (epd)



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