Migrant drownings make a mockery of Europe’s Christian values

Catholic aid groups have challenged European plans for tough measures to curb the flow of migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean, urging a more humanitarian response. 

European governments are “at least partly responsible” for conditions in Libya and other countries, because of past interventions, and should be doing more to promote stable development there, according to Karolina Babicka, an advocacy officer with Caritas Europe.

Describing new European proposals to tackle the migration crisis as “insufficient”, Ms Babicka said: “Catholic agencies like ours have warned the EU for years about this crisis, but its leaders haven't responded seriously.”

On April 23, just days after Caritas reported that more than 1,500 people had drowned cross the Mediterranean so far this year, the EU announced measures to deter boat refugees. It said it would strengthen sea patrols by its Frontex border agency and destroy human traffickers' boats, as well as increasing the speed at which it processed asylum applications and announcing a pilot project for migrant resettlement.

Babicka said that increased funding for Frontex was “a small step in the right direction”, but criticised how the agency has no power to conduct search-and-rescue operations. Catholic representatives, she said, had been “surprised and shocked” by the proposal to destroy smugglers’ boats.

“If you start destroying boats, as the EU has tried to do against pirates off Somalia,” she said, “it's likely you'll destroy the people in them too, and this raises legal and moral questions.

“The smugglers are there because there's a demand – from desperate people who've no other way to reach safety. If you sink them, other even more dangerous routes will be found instead.”

Ms Babicka’s claim that the problem is worsening, with “major states not “doing enough to combat it and uphold the Christian values which provide the foundation for EU values”, echoed the recent observation by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference and head of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, that the tragic drownings of migrants are “a defeat for everything that makes the European Union a community of values”.