Peter Sutherland critical of Europe on migrant crisis

UN special envoy on migration tells Knock faithful of EU shortcomings on response

Peter Sutherland: There was no room for ambiguity, or indifference among Christians to the phenomenon of migration. Photograph: The Irish Times

Peter Sutherland: There was no room for ambiguity, or indifference among Christians to the phenomenon of migration. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The overall response in Europe to the present migrant crisis has been “less than satisfactory”, UN special envoy on migration Peter Sutherland has said.

Addressing pilgrims during the annual Novena at Knock Shrine, Co Mayo, on Monday, Mr Sutherland commended a number of countries including Germany, Sweden and Ireland for their response.

He said that those saved from waters in the Mediterranean by various navies are brought to Italy. “What has happened next has been less than satisfactory,” he said.

“Italy and Greece have received most migrants but the offers from other EU States to relocate refugees from either of these countries have been less than satisfactory.

“So it must be conceded that far from every EU State has been prepared to offer those entitled to asylum the opportunity to avail of it.

“The seeming lack of solidarity demonstrated by some other member states to relocate those who are in camps in Greece and Italy is less than one might have hoped for.”

In a homily at Knock’s crowded Basilica Mr Sutherland said there was no room for ambiguity, or indifference among Christians to the phenomenon of migration.

The mass movement of people he said has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in recent times in Europe and elsewhere.

He said that in more than 130 years of formalised Catholic social teaching the church’s message has been constant and clear.

Ethnic loyalties

People are to be unified on the basis of their shared values not on the needs of national identities such as those which some have thought of in the past to divide humanity or through the promotion of ethnic loyalties calculated to engender xenophobia and racism.

Mr Sutherland quoted from encyclical letters from Pope Francis that we need to understand the unique dignity of every human person and strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. So we must not in these times reject in particular those who are escaping from persecution, war or climatic disasters.

“The numbers may be intimidating but we have no right to reject,” Mr Sutherland said. “We have no right to do other than be hospitable.”

He added that in Ireland we have been spared the worse excesses of public reaction to migration. Beyond refugees and our international obligations to them “the desperate plight of many economic migrants escaping from dire poverty should drive us to seek to open up new avenues for legal migration”.

The EU proposals have been a positive contribution, said Mr Sutherland, and the temper of public debate and response in some European countries including Ireland has been constructive.