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Pope Francis: It’s injustice that causes migrants to die at sea

Pope Francis meets recently arrived refugees from the Greek island of Lesbos and unveils a cross in the Vatican’s Belvedere Courtyard to remember all migrants and refugees who are forced to make perilous journeys in search of a better life.

By Lydia O’Kane

Two life jackets that tell their own story: The first one was given to the Pope a few years ago by a group of rescuers; The vest belonged to a girl who drowned in the Mediterranean. The second one, delivered to Pope Francis by another group of rescuers just a few days ago, belonged to a migrant who was lost at sea last July. No one knows who he was or where he came from.

The Pope on Thursday told 33 refugees recently arrived from the Greek island of Lesbos through a humanitarian corridor, that he had donated the first life jacket to the two undersecretaries from the Migrants and Refugees Section, at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, telling them ‘This is your mission’.

The Pontiff said he wanted it “to mean the inescapable commitment of the Church to save the lives of migrants, so that then we could welcome, protect, promote and integrate them.”

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Injustice that forces many migrants to leave their lands

ddressing those gathered in the Belvedere Courtyard in the Vatican, Pope Francis underlined that it was injustice that forced many migrants to leave their lands, and to suffer abuse and torture in detention camps. “It is injustice that rejects them and causes them to die at sea”, he said.

The cross a symbol of suffering and salvation

In the Christian tradition, noted the Pope, “the cross is a symbol of suffering and sacrifice, but also of redemption and salvation. Unveiling, what he called, a “crucified” life jacket on a transparent resin cross, Pope Francis said he decided to do this to, “remind us that we must keep our eyes open …, keep our hearts open …, to remind everyone of the indispensable commitment to save every human life, a moral duty that unites believers and non-believers.”

Read Also: EU headquarters built by undocumented migrants, workers claim

“Our ignorance is a sin”

“How can we fail to hear the desperate cry of so many brothers and sisters who prefer to face a stormy sea rather than die slowly in Libyan detention camps, places of torture and ignoble slavery?”, stressed the Pope. “How can we remain indifferent to the abuses and violence of which they are innocent victims, leaving them at the mercy of unscrupulous traffickers? How can we “go further”, like the priest and the Levite of the parable of the Good Samaritan, making ourselves responsible for their death” Our ignorance is a sin”, he said.

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Pope Francis went on to say that it is not by blocking the rescue ships that the problem is solved. “Serious efforts must be made to empty the detention camps in Libya, evaluating and implementing all possible solutions”, he said. “We must denounce and prosecute traffickers who exploit and abuse migrants”, the Pope continued. “Economic interests must be put aside in order to focus on the person, each person, whose life and dignity are precious in the eyes of God.” The Pope concluded by saying, “we must help and save, because we are all responsible for the life of our neighbour, and the Lord will ask us to account for this at the moment of judgment.”

Following the Pope’s discourse the cross was carried by two of the refugees where it was blessed and hung on a wall in of memory all migrants and refugees who are forced to make perilous journeys in search of a better life.

READ  Nigeria to prioritise evacuation of citizens stranded in China

(www.vaticannews.va)

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

READ  U.S. issues potential irregular African immigrants gentle warning

“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

READ  Greek hotels to become shelters for asylum-seekers amid virus fears

“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  Migrants' remittances drop by over  $100b - UN Chief 

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  IOM returns over 18, 000 migrants

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

READ  Nigeria to prioritise evacuation of citizens stranded in China

“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  IOM refutes allegations Eritreans held, processed for forced return

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  Average of 11,500 people boarded vessels monthly from the Horn of Africa to Yemen in 2019

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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