Sea Watch migrants; the FCEI writes to European, American and Canadian churches

“We need rational and sustainable governance of Mediterranean migration”

Rome (NEV), 21 May 2019 – The President of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), Pastor Luca Maria Negro, together with Paolo Naso and Fiona Kendall, respectively Co-ordinator and Legal Affairs Advisor for Mediterranean Hope, the FCEI’s refugee and migrant programme, have sent a letter to sister churches in Germany, Hungary, the UK, Canada, the United States, Greece, Ireland and Holland to seek help to welcome migrants saved by the Sea-Watch 3 and to have them relocated.

“We are appealing to you, as a body of churches and faith-based organisations, to help to break the current impasse and press your own governments to welcome a share of those rescued last week and now stuck on Lampedusa.  – reads the missive – which continues, “We do not know if and when the Italian Government will give FCEI responsibility for accommodating this specific group of migrants but, whether for this case or others in the near future, we wish to highlight that direct action to facilitate fast and sponsored relocation to other European countries could be very beneficial in implementing more rational and sustainable governance of Mediterranean migration.”

“On various occasions sister churches abroad have expressed solidarity in respect of the reception activities carried out by the FCEI in Italy and have asked us how they might support our work,” explained Paolo Naso to NEV.  “With this letter, we are inviting them to press their governments to support the transfer of a proportion of the migrants arriving in those European countries most exposed geographically to migration from North Africa – namely, Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta – and their relocation to central and northern Europe.  What’s new is that, this time, we have made a specific appeal for relocation of a share of the 65 migrants saved by Sea-Watch who were disembarked on Lampedusa.  Obviously, our grassroots action needs to be married with top-down action by the Italian government, which needs to exert considerable pressure so that at least some “willing” countries take a share of the migrants, albeit motivated by the knowledge that, internally, churches and ecumenical organisations are ready to take responsibility for hosting.  In this case, the numbers are very small and relocations would essentially be symbolic but the nature of this action would be exceptionally innovative: it would overcome the “wall” of the Dublin Regulation which deals with asylum seekers in Italy and in countries of first asylum, and recognise the role of European civil society in refugee sponsorship initiatives such as those, for example, in Canada.”