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Church leaders call for action after container lorry deaths

Plaque in Dover

Plaque in Dover

Church leaders and campaign groups have expressed their shock and sadness at the deaths of 39 Chinese nationals found dead inside a lorry in the UK, and called for the implementation of the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, that was passed last year.

The Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission, Mgr Robert Vitillo said: "we need always to condemn the crime of trafficking and this type of human smuggling of people, but at the same time we have to understand the need to develop fair and just ways for people to be able to seek refuge if their lives are in danger or if they are victims of persecution for religious or ethnic or for other political reasons."

Mgr Robert Vitillo noted that this type of people smuggling is happening all over the world and "that in every region there are people that are driven to this kind of smuggling…" Many of those, he added, have legitimate claims to refugee status, but don't know how to access their rights. He also pointed out that people smuggling is happening not only by lorry but by train, bus, trucks and by sea, all of which, he said, "the smugglers are benefiting from."

"We need to stop the root causes for this contracting with smugglers and an important way to do that is to implement the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, that was passed last year by many, many states and also at the national and local level to find new ways, such as the alternative pathways developed by some of the Churches…" The ICMC, he said, has been very active in promoting private sponsorships so that people can seek refuge safely.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for migration and asylum for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, said: "We are praying for the 39 women and men who died, for their families, and for all those across the world who have lost their lives while trying to reach a better future. This tragedy underscores the urgent need to redouble our efforts in establishing safe passages and combatting criminals who exploit desperate people."

Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, Chair of Justice & Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster said: "The discovery in Purfleet of the thirty-nine women and men who died in desperate attempts to reach a better future in our country is shocking and disturbing. Our hearts and prayers go out to their families and friends and for all those who have lost their lives in similar tragedies. This terrible event highlights the urgent need to establish safe passages and to combat the evil of those who exploit desperate people. In addition to this the forcible removal earlier this week of over a hundred people and their belongings from one camp in Calais is just one more example of the pressures that migrants face in an increasingly hostile environment which is an affront to any civilised understanding of human dignity".

Speaking from a meeting in Dover, Ben Bano from 'People Not Walls and Safe Passage' said: "We are French and British civil society, NGOs and Faith groups seeking justice and proper treatment for displaced people and supporting them while they survive in punishing conditions in northern France. The forcible removal of over a hundred people and their belongings from one camp in Calais as we meet is just one more example of the pressures that they face.

"We are saddened and appalled by the recent discovery of 39 bodies in the back of a lorry in Essex."

"Once again we we see the result of a combination of smugglers and a system which denies people the right to claim asylum in the UK without attempting dangerous journeys. As well as the effects of the hostile environment we need to remember that the UK has only 1% of the world's refugees.

"Today, 'People Not Walls' partners from both sides of the English Channel unite to ask our governments to honour our common humanity, and to invest in people rather than in expensive and ineffective physical borders.

"We also support 'Safe Passage', who have handed in a petition with almost 80,000 signatures to the Home Office to ask for legal and safe routes of access to the United Kingdom. We need solutions that would negate the need for these dangerous and life-threatening cross-Channel journeys."

The declaration has also been issued in French:

"People not Walls est un collectif transfrontalière en quête de justice et du traitement approprié des personnes déplacées et de leur soutien pendant leur survie dans des conditions pénibles au nord de la France. Le déplacement forcé de plus d'un centaine de personnes et de leurs biens d'un camp à Calais pendant notre réunion n'est qu'un autre exemple des pressions auxquelles ils sont confrontés.

Nous sommes nous sommes attristés et épouvantés par la découverte récente de 39 corps à l'arrière d'un camion à côté de l'estuaire de la Tamise dans l'Essex.

Ben Bano, coordinateur par intérim de l'organisation, a déclaré: "Une fois encore, nous voyons le résultat d'une combinaison de trafiquants et d'un système qui refuse aux exilés le droit de demander l'asile au Royaume-Uni, à moins que ceux-ci ne tentent des voyages dangereux. Ainsi que les effets de l'environnement hostile, il convient de rappeler que seulement 1% des réfugiés dans le monde sont hébergés au Royaume-Uni,

Aujourd'hui, les partenaires de People Not Walls des deux côtés de la Manche se sont réunis pour demander à nos gouvernements d'honorer notre humanité commune et d'investir dans les personnes plutôt que dans des frontières physiques coûteuses et inefficaces.

Nous soutenons également Safe Passage, qui a présenté une pétition signée par près de 80 000 signatures au Home Office en Londres demandant des voies d'accès légales et sûres au Royaume-Uni. Nous avons besoin de solutions qui élimineraient la nécessité de mettre en danger la vie pendant ces dangereux voyages trans-Manche."

See also: ICN 24 October 2019 - Call for legal routes for refugees after 39 people die in container lorry

and ICN 24 October 2019 - Reflection: On dying in a container lorry


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