The ecumenical Church delegation that met Greek EU Presidency representatives in Athens a week ago made just migration a priority concern.
Discussions tackled the complex issue of migration into Europe and the social effects of freedom of movement within the European Union.
All were agreed that demographic trends within Europe made migration essential. Nonetheless, the EU lacks a migration policy such as that in the USA or Australia.
A series of points were raised in the discussion on the subject of migration:
• The flow of migrants to the EU has been dramatically increased by the humanitarian crisis in Syria; the political developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as continuing conflict in Africa and Afghanistan have increased the influx of migrants to Europe. The South European countries, at the Schengen borders, are particularly affected by these developments and, due to the on-going economic crisis, their reception capacity of new migrants is affected. The Churches support the Greek Presidency in promoting greater solidarity between the EU Member States in receiving migrants and asylum seekers.
• The Church delegation, fully aware of the difficulties in the point-of-entry countries, pleaded for a more humane treatment of arriving migrants and asylum seekers: their human dignity and their internationally acknowledged rights had to be safeguarded at all costs.
• Deserving particular attention is the fight against organised human trafficking in all its guises – prostitution, forced labour, organ trafficking. The COMECE representative referred back to the last Plenary of the Bishops where a scheme of practical co-operation between police and Church organisations in rescuing victims of trafficking and facilitating their rehabilitation was presented.
• The situation in countries of origin and countries of transit was also highlighted. A plea was made that people be helped to stay in their home countries. The upcoming Summit meeting between the EU and heads of government from Africa, scheduled for April 2014, offers an opportunity to work on concrete solutions. Among the solutions, the Churches keep remembering the EU Member States of their commitment in terms of development goals .
At the conclusion of the meeting, Minister Kourkoulas indicated that the Greek Presidency was more than happy to attend and participate in two up-coming conferences being organised by the Churches, that on the “Work-free Sunday” (organised by the European Sunday Alliance next 21 January) and the CEC conference on “Youth Unemployment” taking place from 24-26 March.
Before the meeting at the Greek Foreign Ministry, the Church delegation paid a courtesy visit to His Beatitude Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and Primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece, so as to be briefed on the current situation in Greece and on the initiatives undertaken by the Church to meets the needs which result from the continuing economic crisis.
* Conference of European Churches: http://www.ceceurope.org/
* COMECE: http://www.comece.org/