Civil society efforts not a substitute for government responsibility on migration, says COMECE

Migrants who were stranded on the NGO migrant rescue ships Sea-Watch 3 and Professor Albrecht Penck disembark from an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat at its base in Marsamxett Harbour, Valletta, Malta January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU, COMECE, stated that the efforts made by the Catholic Church and civil society in welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants cannot substitute governments’ responsibility to ensure that newcomers are rescued when stranded at sea, brought to a safe place, treated in a humane way and provided with necessary assistance.

The bishops of Malta wrote to COMECE during the stand off urging their European colleagues to join in their appeal and demanding action from their respective politicians on the stand off which saw 49 asylum seekers stranded at sea. The rescued people were finally allowed to disembark on Wednesday afternoon, when they were brought in on AFM boats at Haywharf, Valletta.

READ: Migrants at sea: “Desperate need of action” – Bishops

READ: Watch: Rescued asylum seekers finally disembark in Malta

In a statement, COMECE said that it welcomed the deal reached on Wednesday among some European member states, with the intervention of the European Commission, which have accepted to receive some of the asylum seekers that were left stranded for days at sea until a deal was brokered. The 49 rescuees were brought ashore on Wednesday following an announcement by the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat who announced that a deal had been reached between 8 member states and in which some asylum seekers rescued by Malta as well as the 49 on board the civil search and rescue NGOs would be transferred on to the patrol boats of the Armed Forces of Malta.

READ: Maltese bishops praise saving of human lives

COMECE further stated that they could not remain ‘deaf to the cry of those suffering’ explaining that ‘we are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another’. The Commission further said that safe migration required the cooperation between countries of departure, transit and destination in order to avoid that persons looking for a better life embark on dangerous trips that have caused thousands of victims in the Mediterranean sea.

COMECE also called on EU member states to exercise their shared responsibility towards asylum seekers, in particular when stranded at sea, cooperating with those countries more affected by the arrivals of migrants, and creating a mechanism ensuring that the principles of human dignity and the common good will prevail over other considerations. Similarly, in a comment given to Archbishop Charles Scicluna spoke of the need for an infrastructure for asylum seekers rescued at sea.

READ: Watch: Ordeal shows the need for infrastructure of solidarity – Archbishop