By Lisa Zengarini
“Being European also means to put solidarity in practice” Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxemburg has reminded, following a letter addressed to the European Commission on October 7 by the Ministers of 12 EU Member States on the recent developments at the external borders of the European Union.
In a statement issued on Friday, the President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) expressed concern about the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in vulnerable situations whose human dignity and fundamental rights, he said, "should be upheld".
12 European countries calling for stricter rules against illegal immigration
The letter in question was signed by the Ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Denmark, Austria, Poland Hungary, Bulgaria Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It calls for stricter EU rules and a more effective “border control”, to prevent “illegal border crossings”, “combat illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings” and “prevent any threat to the Member States’ internal security, public policy, public health and international relations“.
The right to seek asylum should be protected
In his statement released on Friday, Cardinal Hollerich pointed out that the “right to seek asylum should be protected and states should respect the principle of non-refoulement of people at risk in their home country”. “We believe that being European also means to put solidarity in practice”, the prelate said, recalling Pope Francis words in his Message for the 40th anniversary of COMECE in which he wrote: “We dream of a Europe that is inclusive and generous, […] a welcoming and hospitable place in which charity, the highest Christian virtue, overcomes every form of indifference and selfishness”.
Creating legal and safe pathways for migrants
Cardinal Hollerich further reiterated EU Bishops’ support for “resettlement efforts by EU Member States, civil society, and Church actors”, and for creating “legal and safe pathways for migrants, so to avoid them from falling into the hands of criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers”.
Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants
In the context of the ongoing negotiations on the proposed EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, COMECE finally calls on the European Union and its Member States “to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and asylum seekers”, supporting a “positive perception and narrative of migrants and their families”.
Growing tensions on the Eastern European borders
The 12 European Ministers’ letter was sent amid growing tensions on the Eastern European borders, where more and more refugees are trying to enter the EU from Belarus and are pushed back by Polish border police. Poland and the EU are accusing Belarus President Alexandr Lukashenko of carrying out a "hybrid war" in retaliation against Western sanctions on his authoritarian government in Minsk. However, some of the migrants who have been pushed back are asylum seekers in vulnerable situations who are entitled to protection under international law.