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28 April 2015

Archbishop calls for EU help for migrants

Archbishop calls for EU help for migrants

European leaders agreed to triple funding for rescue operations aimed at migrant boats in the Mediterranean following crisis talks in Brussels on Thursday.

While international attention has now turned to the earthquake in Nepal, the migrant crisis continues. The number of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has risen sharply in recent months.

The talks last week followed the recent spate of boats, containing trafficked or fleeing migrants, capsizing.

More than 35,000 migrants are thought to have crossed from Libya to Europe this year and approximately 1,750 have died attempting the journey.

Nearly 400 migrants are believed drowned when their boat capsized, but more than 900 could now have died after another boat sank near the coast of Libya last weekend.

The estimated toll from that Sunday's capsizing was the worst so far.

The EU is also planning to explore ways to capture and destroy smugglers' boats and deploy immigration officers to non-EU countries. There is debate over naval patrols.

Human rights groups are already criticising the summit for failing to expand the operational area of EU-led naval patrols, which could have taken them closer to the Libyan coast. Unless the ships are in the right place, they argue, migrants will continue to drown.

The deaths prompted Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis to call for united efforts to prevent the death toll rising.

They are calling for European nations to take in more migrants fleeing North Africa and the Middle East.

Speaking to the BBC, Archbishop Welby said: "We can't say this is one country's responsibility, the one nearest;that's not right.

"Of course, we have to be aware of the impact of immigration in our own communities, but when people are drowning in the Mediterranean, the need, the misery that has driven them out of their own countries is so extreme, so appalling, that Europe as a whole must rise up and seek to do what's right.

"It is evident that the proportions of the phenomenon demand much greater involvement. We must not tire in our attempts to solicit a more extensive response at the European and international level."

His comments were similar to those of Pope Francis, who urged Europe and the international community to do more to tackle the rising number of migrants making desperate and often deadly journeys across the Mediterranean.

The International Organization for Migration has warned that the death toll in the Mediterranean this year is already 30 times higher than last year.

Many of those cramming into the decrepit boats are fleeing violence and religious persecution.

Immigration is one of the major issues in the general election campaign.

"This is nothing about the European Union, I'm talking about countries across the region, we need to share the burden," said the Archbishop.

Ed Miliband for Labour has branded the Government's current opposition to search and rescue missions "immoral" and accused Cameron of bad planning and neglect of the issues in Libya.

Speaking in Luxembourg at the summit, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "The world is horrified by the events that are taking place in the Mediterranean and by the cynicism of the criminal gangs that are exploiting these unfortunate people."

"We are meeting here today …to address how we can tackle this issue. It requires a comprehensive European level response to be effective.

"That response has got to include targeting the criminals who are managing this traffic in human suffering.

"We have got to tackle them, we have got to work upstream in the countries from which these people are coming and we are determined to put an end to this vile trade."