Catholic bishop laments deaths of children after migrant boat sinks in English Channel

Catholic bishop laments deaths of children after migrant boat sinks in English Channel

Bishop Paul McAleenan, center, meets charity workers and volunteers helping refugees in Dover, England, Sept. 15, 2020. Credit: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.
Bishop Paul McAleenan, center, meets charity workers and volunteers helping refugees in Dover, England, Sept. 15, 2020. Credit: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

.- A Catholic bishop expressed sorrow Wednesday after a migrant boat sank in the English Channel, killing four members of a family, including two children.

Bishop Paul McAleenan said Oct. 28 that he hoped the incident would not be used to score political points. 

“All who value human life, whatever their position on migrants and refugees, will be united in sorrow following yesterday’s tragedy in the Channel,” said the chairman of the English and Welsh bishops’ office for migration policy.

“Immediate thoughts should be with the adults and children who died, their families wherever they are in the world, and their companions who will remember forever what they witnessed. It is hoped that no one will want to make a mere political point because of the incident.”

More than 7,400 migrants have reached the U.K. in small boats so far this year, compared with 1,825 in 2019.

McAleenan, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Westminster, added: “What is truly needed is a meeting of minds. That will require a shifting of mindset on the part of those who set the rules, and the pursuit of heartless profiteers to ensure that no one feels compelled or encouraged to risk their life, or that of their children, in a dangerous craft on the open sea.”

The four members of a Kurdish-Iranian family died Tuesday when their small fishing boat capsized as they were crossing the Channel from France to the U.K. 

They were identified as Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six. Artin, their 15-month-old baby boy, is still missing. 

Fifteen other migrants were rescued and taken to hospital.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his condolences to those who had lost family members.

“My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel,” he said on Twitter.

“We will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.”

McAleenan urged the U.K. and France in July to address the “underlying reasons” for the rise in migrants risking their lives to cross the Channel.

He said that a new agreement between the two countries should focus on saving the lives of migrants who attempt the perilous crossing from France to the U.K.

“Their focus must be in determining why so many choose to flee their home country and use their influence to eradicate the underlying reasons why these same people are willing to risk their lives in the open sea,” he said.

Migrants brought ashore by the U.K. Border Force in recent months have fled from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, as well as impoverished nations including Chad, Eritrea, and Sudan. The U.K. Home Office has said that the migrants should claim asylum in the first safe European country they reach, rather than traveling on to the U.K.

McAleenan was responding to a meeting between British Home Secretary Priti Patel and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

The two ministers signed a Declaration of Intent July 12 establishing a Franco-British Operational Research Unit to combat migrant smuggling. They also underlined their commitment to returning migrant boats to France, rather than allowing them to dock in the U.K.

McAleenan said: “I would like to see the details of the agreement between the U.K. and France, that would indicate how they understand and perceive what is taking place in the English Channel.”

“Surely two countries which pride themselves on being progressive and enlightened will see that the welfare of those who are destitute is vital. Protection of people should be foremost in their thinking.”

Tags: Immigration, Catholic News, Catholic Church, France, United Kingdom, Immigration policy

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