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Death of migrants in Italy shipwreck

Statement from the World Council of Churches general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit over the death of migrants in Italy shipwreck on 3 October.

04 October 2013

Statement from the World Council of Churches general secretary over the death of migrants in Italy shipwreck.

It is with sadness, horror and concern that we have learned of the deaths yesterday of more than 100 people after the capsizing of a migrant boat in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy. We mourn with their families and communities, and pray that God will comfort and sustain their loved ones. We hold the survivors, and all migrants forced to take these dangerous journeys, in our thoughts and prayers.

While we offer our condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives, we also ask for serious demonstration of a political will by those in power to put an end to the frequent occurrences of people dying at sea.  The chaotic political and economic situations in the region have bred not only desperation among people but also provided openings for opportunistic criminals. And legitimate concerns over border controls by Italy and other European Union member states must never compromise the safety of those who, in desperation, take to the seas for refuge elsewhere.

We are aware of the difficulties faced by the people of Lampedusa and the government of Italy as a result of the continuous arrival of migrants and growing responsibility to care and provide for them. We urge that the European Union undertake all necessary measures to support Italy’s efforts to help Lampedusa provide safety and security for the vulnerable communities of migrants, especially women and children, who are facing constant threats to their dignity and well-being.

Within the larger framework, this tragedy again reminds us of the dramatic divisions between rich and poor in this world, and that people in some African countries endure large-scale economic injustices. These are the roots of much migration, and they are realities we must all address together in the name of the God of life—for their sake, and that of the whole human family.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary