After what is probably the worst refugee disaster in the Mediterranean to date, calls are being made for consequences to be drawn. In a joint word, the two major churches in Germany called the dying a "humanitarian scandal".
The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and the chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, ied a joint statement on Monday. Nobody should get used to such catastrophes, they say. A sea rescue mission under European responsibility is needed immediately. Human rights and refugee organizations had also demanded the same thing.
Marx and Bedford-Strohm emphasized that the Italian operation "Mare Nostrum" had done an exemplary job for a year. The successor mission "Triton" of the EU border protection agency Frontex, however, is considered insufficient by the two clergymen. Their main purpose, he said, is not to rescue castaways, but to protect the border. In addition, the observation area has been severely restricted and the funds for it limited. "Therefore, we strongly demand to return to a thorough concept of sea rescue."
"Mediterranean as a mass grave"
The chairman of the Commission for the Universal Church of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Ludwig Schick, also sees an expansion of sea rescue as the first and most important measure. Archbishop Schick said in an interview with this site.The fact that nothing has changed for years makes him angry. Europe must help anyone in need, she says. In addition, the world church bishop called for the stabilization of North African countries, especially Libya and Tunisia. The goal must be that the countries are able to act politically again to put a stop to traffickers on the ground, he said.
The bishop of Hildesheim, Norbert Trelle, also expressed his shock. "It is with sadness and anger that I perceive that the Mediterranean has become the largest mass grave in Europe," Trelle said. Pope Francis had already called for a "swift and decisive" response from the international community during midday prayers Sunday, calling for silent prayer.
At least 700 deaths feared
On Sunday night, a refugee boat capsized off the Libyan coast. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, there were about 700 people on board, 28 of whom were rescued. One survivor told media of 950 boat occupants. Meanwhile, there are reports of more refugee ships in distress at sea.
Like the churches, the United Nations, politicians and aid organizations called for a response from the international community and the EU. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the Mediterranean has become the world’s deadliest route for refugees.
German government: Combat smuggling gangs and stabilize situation in North Africa
The German government called the fight against trafficking gangs a key point. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We must and will do everything we can to take up and continue the fight against smugglers and traffickers". Likewise, the causes of flight would have to be addressed.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) also called for more attention to be paid to African countries of transit and origin. "The most important transit country right now is Libya – a country that is about to disintegrate unless we interrupt and reverse the process."trafficking gangs took advantage of the unstable situation there. The EU must therefore make a determined effort to form a government of national unity in Libya, he said. The difficulties in North Africa "cannot be solved in the short term," Steinmeier acknowledged. EU interior and foreign ministers discussed the current situation in Luxembourg on Monday afternoon. In the run-up, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) warned against too high expectations.