While Europe wavers, Rome welcomes migrants

The European Union “was born to knock down walls, not to build them” according to Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, criticising Hungary’s erection of a border fence to regulate the movements of asylum seekers. 

“If you stop the flow in that direction, we have to pose the problem of how to respond to the urge for freedom of those who are fleeing”, he told an executive meeting of his Democratic Party, asking “in a Europe born because a wall fell why are people withdrawing [behind] walls, starting with the consensus of governments that are theoretically leftwing?”

Mr Renzi’s comments have been echoed by Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni who described Hungary’s behaviour as “terrifying” and “a slap in the face to those of us who believed in the enlargement of the European Union”. 

EU ambassadors have proposed relocating 120,000 migrants currently based in Italy and Greece, including 54,000 migrants Hungary has refused, but the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has said that EU’s plans are inadequate for a situation where 6,000 migrants arrive in Europe every day. According to the OECD, Europe will probably register more than one million asylum applicants this year. 

In Rome, the Vatican’s St Anne parish has responded to Pope Francis’ request for parishes to sponsor refugee families by welcoming a family of four Melkite Christians from Damascus whose asylum request has been registered with Italian authorities. The general house of the Marist Brothers, which took in refugees from Eritrea in the 1980s, has likewise responded to the Pope’s request by also offering to welcome a family as, superior general Bro. Emili Turú said, “a concrete way to give a response to this emergency that there is in Europe”.