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COMECE Secretary Geneeral, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto. COMECE Secretary Geneeral, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto. 

COMECE urges EU to provide safe, prompt disembarkation for migrants

Bishops of the European Union are urging EU Member States not to make the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic an excuse to let migrants die in the Mediterranean Sea.

By Robin Gomes

Referring to the many migrants who were not promptly and safely disembarked at the closest EU port over the last days, the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) calls for “a predictable solidarity mechanism agreed among EU member states”.

Prompt and safe disembarkation 

In a press release on Friday, COMECE says it shares the concerns recently expressed by the Maltese Conference of Bishops about the fate of 47 people stuck for days on an NGO rescue vessel in Malta’s search and rescue area (SAR), in an extremely precarious situation and finally taken back to Libya.

The bishops’ body says that the EU should support its 27-member states in ensuring the prompt and safe disembarkation of migrants and asylum seekers at the closest safe port, “which should be a European port, as Libyan ports cannot be considered safe”, says Father Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of COMECE.

As required by the Resolution MSC.167(78) of the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organisation, people rescued at sea can only be disembarked in a safe port. 

EU’s common response needed for forced migration

“Migrants and asylum seekers,” says the priest, “are often subjected to torture, violence, and inhumane treatment when they are taken back to countries from where they embarked.”

To prevent the Mediterranean Sea turning into a vast cemetery, COMECE calls the European Union and its Member States to work for a common response to forced migration, establishing “a predictable solidarity mechanism agreed among EU member states to cope with emergency situations of vulnerable migrants in distress at sea”.

Excluding no one

Despite the current difficulties caused by the current Covid-19 pandemic to all EU Member States, COMECE highlights that humanitarian principles should always prevail.

“No one should be left behind,” says Father Barrios, “including migrants in a rescue vessel”.

“The pandemic should not be an excuse to let human beings die in the Mediterranean Sea.”

The EU Bishops- Commission recalls Pope Francis’s message for the 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, when he said, “it is not just about migrants: [it is about our humanity], it is a question of seeing that no one is excluded”.

The EU is a community of values and principles, with the common understanding that human beings are equal in dignity and deserve respect for their human rights and protection, especially when they are in a situation of high vulnerability.

COMECE is made up of bishops delegated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the 27 Member States of the European Union.   

24 April 2020, 16:32