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Church \ Church in Europe

JRS on latest migrant drownings in Aegean Sea

File picture of female migrants after being rescued when their boat sank in the Aegean Sea on December 16th. - AP

File picture of female migrants after being rescued when their boat sank in the Aegean Sea on December 16th. - AP

22/01/2016 16:34

(Vatican Radio) International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service, Father Tom Smolich said unless we deal with the “push-factors” the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe will continue no matter what dangers, walls, borders or other barriers we place in their way. He said that’s why it's so imperative to end the war in Syria. Father Smolich was speaking about the latest tragedy involving the deaths of over 40 migrants when two smugglers boats capsized in the Aegean Sea and the remarks made by the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls who warned that Europe’s migration crisis was putting the EU at risk.

Listen to the interview with Father Tom Smolich, International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service: 

Asked for his reaction to the deaths of over 40 migrants and refugees who drowned when two smugglers’ boats sank in the eastern Aegean Sea, Father Smolich spoke of his sadness, saying the drownings were another example of the lack of value placed by people on the lives of these desperate refugees and migrants. “We cannot carry on ignoring what is going on”, he warned, and “roll our eyes and say ‘that’s too bad’” when we hear of the latest drowning involving migrants. 

“Steering them to a watery grave”

Father Smolich said it was especially tragic because if European countries were willing “to welcome and process” these refugees they would not need to put their lives at risk by crossing the sea in a flimsy smugglers boat that can end up “steering them to a watery grave.”  He revealed how when he visited Greece in December 2015 he was told that if these people could enter the EU legally they could travel from Turkey to Greece paying just 20 Euros for the boat trip, (instead of the huge sums demanded by smugglers).

“Deal with the push-factors”

Commenting on the remarks made by French Prime minister Manuel Valls that Europe cannot take all the refugees fleeing the wars in Syria and Iraq as it would destabilize the continent’s societies, Father Smolich described his comments as unhelpful but said they reflected the fear that many Europeans feel when looking at the influx of refugees. He also warned that regardless of what EU leaders say, the flow of refugees will continue no matter what barriers Europe places in their way, “unless we deal with the push-factors” (like the war in Syria).  “Any walls, any borders, any fears or any ways of stopping these people from coming are not going to work,” Father Smolich declared.  

22/01/2016 16:34