Cardinal Marx says migrant deaths represent a 'defeat for everything that makes the European Union a community of values'

Cardinal Reinhard Marx has urged “drastic measures” to end the “humanitarian crisis” currently unfolding in the Mediterranean.

Cardinal Marx, the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU, echoed the Pope’s appeal for more to be done to help migrants who are risking their lives to reach Europe from north Africa, and he called on the European Union to act.

The comments come after the latest in a number of tragedies to occur in the Mediterranean in recent weeks. According to the United Nations, up to 850 people died off the coast of Libya on the weekend when the boat they were travelling in capsized.

“The tragic drowning of an estimated seven hundred migrants in the waters of the Mediterranean on Saturday night not only recalls the Pope’s appeal but raises questions as to how seriously the European Union considers the values, so often referred to, on which it is founded,” Cardinal Marx said.

Italian police have arrested two suspected people traffickers who were among the 27 rescued from the migrant boat. Tunisian Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, thought to be the captain of the vessel, and Mahmud Bikhit, 25, from Syria have been charged with people trafficking. Malek has also been charged with reckless multiple homicide.

“The recent disaster in the Mediterranean represents a defeat for everything that makes the European Union a community of values,” the cardinal added. “The EU cannot remain unmoved by this human catastrophe.”

The statement continued: “It is clear that the European Union attracts refugees, it is also clear that traffickers exploit the willingness of EU border control to rescue their victims, and it is regrettable that sufficient action is not being taken in their countries of origin to counter the reasons which make them feel they must leave.”

Full text of Cardinal Marx’s statement:

“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!” This was the call of Pope Francis to the European States, in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25 November 2014, in which he encouraged “mutual support” and warned for the risk of “particularistic solutions”.

The tragic drowning of an estimated seven hundred migrants in the waters of the Mediterranean on Saturday night not only recalls the Pope’s appeal but raises questions as to how seriously the European Union considers the values, so often referred to, on which it is founded. The recent disaster in the Mediterranean represents a defeat for everything that makes the European Union a community of values.

Now that the figures were revised upward, it appears that much more than 1,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in the last 10 days.

The EU cannot remain unmoved by this human catastrophe.

It is clear that the EU attracts refugees, it is also clear that traffickers exploit the willingness of EU border control to rescue their victims, and it is regrettable that sufficient action is not being taken in their countries of origin to counter the reasons which make them feel they must leave.

But all this does not justify us in ignoring the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean and which the European Union is facing. Politics in Europe has often deplored the deaths of refugees without drawing conclusions. This tragedy now pushes European countries to take drastic measures against this dramatic situation.

Europe’s response will be a litmus test for European values. If the EU gives serious credit to its convictions, it will choose to reinstate the instruments of “Mare Nostrum” and expand the mission “Triton” on the protection of the EU’s external borders.

The rescue of lives in the Mediterranean cannot remain a mere political issue. This is a real human duty and a requirement of the moral aspiration of Europe. It is absolutely true that, on Monday at an extraordinary joint meeting, the EU Foreign and Home Affairs Ministers reacted to the tragic events in the Mediterranean and that President Tusk has convened a special meeting of the European Council.

I welcome the commitment by the Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Ministers to reinforce measures in response to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean and to increase the budget for missions in this area.

However, this announcement will need practical follow-up at the meeting of the Heads of State and Government on Thursday: Europe must now work to find concrete proposals for the establishment of human asylum and migration policies supported and implemented in solidarity by all member states of the European Union.

Every reasonable step must be taken to avoid a tragedy such as Saturday’s ever occurring again! The Heads of State and Government can no longer postpone indefinitely the problematic of migrants as soon as the current tragedy disappears from the headlines.

Our prayers are for the victims of this disaster and their families. We do not pray with our eyes closed, rather but with eyes opened to those in need.