Cardinal Renato Raffaelo Martino challenged the immigrant detention policy of the Maltese government on Friday, saying he could not understand the logic behind it. In an address which made references to other European countries, the Cardinal, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said the Church to speak out on these matters and not just have the religious orders taking an initiative. "Detention centres are supposed to be for criminals - these are people who are trying to better their lives. How can that be defined as a crime?" Cardinal Martino asked. The Cardinal is known for straight talking. He recently criticised the United States' intervention in Iraq, for instance, dubbing it "outright useless". "Of course Malta is not the only country employing such a policy," he pointed out. " In Italy - where I come from - there are the centri di permanenza temporanea (temporary accommodation centres), which are meant to hold immigrants for 60 days but end up detaining people for up to two years." The Cardinal, on a three-day visit to the island, delivered a few lectures but also found time to tour the Marsa open centre on Friday. There, among others, he met Somali Mohammad Abdullah, who lost his pregnant wife when the boat he was aboard capsized while making the crossing from Libya. In all, 17 people died on that trip last June. He was released from detention early and given humanitarian status after his Somali citizenship was ascertained. The trauma he faced at sea, Mr Abdullah explained, was compounded with his stay in the detention centre. Cardinal Martino said Europe needed to respond to this situation not only with short-term policy but also to deal with the root of the problem. "Why these people are fleeing their country is the question we need to be asking ourselves. We need to help Africa, not through charity, but by helping the Africans become protagonists in their future. "Africa is a continent which has been abandoned. The developed world but Europe in particular has a great debt with Africa," he said. The Cardinal also met President Eddie Fenech Adami and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. Source: MHR
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