Welby calls on Britain to open its borders to Mediterranean migrants

The Archbishop of Canterbury has added his voice to the call to open Britain’s borders to migrants fleeing the political and economic crises raging across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has added his voice to the call to open Britain’s borders to migrants fleeing the political and economic crises raging across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In an interview with the BBC following reports that an estimated 1200 migrants had drowned in the Mediterranean last week while seeking to enter Europe, Archbishop Welby said the UK needs to “share the burden”.

“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.”

On 18 April 2015 an estimated 800 migrants drowned when the smugglers’ boat capsized off the coast of Libya. The 2015 death toll from failed passages could top 30,000, nearly 10 times the 2014 total of 3,279, the International Organization for Migration has warned. Refugees from the wars in Syria and Iraq, economic deprivation in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East are said to be paying up to £5000 for passage to Southern Europe, with the hope that once ashore in Greece, Italy or Spain, they can move North.

Archbishop Welby said the influx of economic and political refugees “be demanding and that’s why the burden must be spread across the continent and not taken by just one country or one area.”

The archbishop’s words have found support among political leaders and the media. The Economist argued that while Europe cannot solve the problems that have caused the upsurge in immigration nor can it take in all those seeking to enter Europe, it must nonetheless act. The current policy which would have the EU “stand back and watch one lot of innocent people drown so as to deter another from following them into boats. That logic was wrong as well as morally repugnant.

“If the EU is to live up to its values, it must act on many fronts at once”, adds The Economist. The magazine suggests setting up “camps to process asylum applications to Europe on the south shore of the Med” where asylum applications would be processed in a “fast, fair and efficient” way.

“The economic migrants who are rejected need to be sent back home. And member states must sign up to their share of refugees – which should be well within the scope of 500m wealthy EU citizens. […] Europe likes to think it is a model for how nation states can work together to make the world a better place. At the moment, the boat people put that idea to shame.”

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