Churches want access for migrants; UN expert urges opening borders

(Photo: REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol)A migrant dries his pants on a chair in a squat opened by activists from the No Borders UK network in a former recycling factory in Calais August 2, 2014. More than 1,000 migrants from Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan currently live in Calais and hope to make it across the Channel to England. The squat is planned for evacuation in the next few days by the police, according to a Calais court decision. No Borders UK is a network which aims to fight against borders and immigration controls. The wall reads, "Adventure is Human."

The Vatican and the World Council of Churches are urging all States to provide for generous, safe and accessible procedures for the legal migration of people at a time of crises over the movement of people in Europe and Asia.

The call of the WCC representing more than 500 million Christians worldwide matches pleas made recently by the Vatican and international experts.

They emphasise the positive effects of migration drowned out by populist anti-migrant rhetoric in some countries.

The executive committee of the WCC declared: "All members of the international community have a moral and legal duty to save the lives of those in jeopardy at sea or in transit, regardless of their origin and status."

The WCC's governing group met in Armenia from June 7 to 12, and it issued a statement on migrants from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The church grouping identified the multiple contemporary crises as "an escalating global problem, with different expressions and responses in different contexts."

In another part of Geneva on June 16 a United Nations special expert on human rights of migrants said receiving countries need to make use of mobility rather than restrictions to deal with the crisis.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, said that the ability of migrants to reach European soil despite a huge investment in securing international borders shows that sealing them is impossible.


Sealing borders only serves to empower people traffickers in the Mediterranean, said Crépeau, a law professor from McGill University, in Montréal, Canada.

"The European Union and its member states must recognize that irregular migration is a result of policies prohibiting immigration," Crépeau said from a report he presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

"Such policies only serve to open a new and lucrative market for smuggling rings, a market which could not exist without this prohibition."

"If Europe insists on focusing most of its resources on securitisation, it will fail to defeat smuggling rings," he warned.

"Europe needs to destroy the smugglers' business model, which was created when barriers and prohibitions to mobility were erected and which thrives by evading the restrictive migration policies of EU Member States."

More than 200,000 migrants and asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea in 2014, compared with 80,000 in 2013, according to current estimates.

So far this year, Europe has already received over 100,000 migrants and asylum seekers who have arrived by boat, with some frontline States such as Italy and Greece reporting daily arrivals.

"Migrants will come, no matter what," Crépeau warned. "The EU will only be able to regain control of its border if it banks on mobility.

Banking on mobility means that the overall goal is to have most migrants using official channels to enter and stay in Europe."

The expert called on the EU to establish a human rights-based, coherent and comprehensive migration policy which makes mobility its central asset.

"It is the only way in which it can reclaim its border, effectively combat smuggling and empower migrants," the Special Rapporteur said.

The Vatican's representative to the United Nations Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, said June 15 that the multilateral system, and particularly immigration countries, have not effectively managed migration.


"In the long term, it is necessary to address the root causes of such a global phenomenon," he told the hearing on migration.

"The clock is ticking and the longer we wait, the higher the costs will be. All these persons on the move for different reasons have rights that the national and international communities must protect and respect in practice."

He said, "Promoting and respecting the human rights of migrants and their dignity ensures that everyone's rights and dignity in society are fully respected."

The WCC in its statement cited recent examples of the fatal consequences of the issue around migrants.

These include "the deaths of unprecedented numbers of migrants and refugees seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, and of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants on the Andaman Sea.

"The recent killings of Ethiopian Christian migrant workers by the so-called 'Islamic State' in Libya, and the xenophobic violence against migrants in South Africa, are also illustrative of the special vulnerability of people who leave their home countries in the universal human pursuit of safety and a better life for themselves and their families."

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