Challenging refugee boat narratives ('Sunday Sequence', 26 April)

By Press Office
April 25, 2015

Ekklesia associate and board member Vaughan Jones, who is minister of Harecourt United Reformed Church in London, appears on BBC Northern Ireland's 'Sunday Sequence' programme on 26 April 2015 (from 8.30am), talking about the follow-on from the tragic sinking of an Italian coastguard ship that killed 800 refugee-migrants earlier this week.

He appears in discussion with an Italian centre-right politician and a representative of Amnesty International.

There has been widespread horror at this tragedy – which has highlighted the deaths of tens of thousands of people fleeing war and human rights abuses in the world's trouble-spots, not least Syria and other MENA nations. But Western governments continue to wring their hands and evade responsibility in many instances.

Vaughan Jones has written extensively on migration, asylum and refugee issues for Ekklesia and others, drawing on his extensive experience – including a significant time as CEO of Praxis, a multi-agency NGO which works with displaced people.

In this instance he is challenging the use of the term 'illegal' towards those fleeing life-threatening events in their own countries.

It is not illegal to try to escape abuses and war crimes he points out. The illegality lies with those who perpetrate such crimes, those who arm and aid them, those who exploit the vulnerable for profit, and those who seek to evade or deny international legal obligations towards refugees.

We need a wholesale re-evaluation of what is going on here, and a different, humanitarian-based response from the wealthy nations, as well as attention to root causes. Blaming the victims of death-dealing is immoral and wrong.

See also Vaughan's important recent paper for Ekklesia, 'Migration and the 2015 election: reframing the terms of the debate' (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/migration2015).

BBC Sunday Sequence, hosted by Roisin McAuley, features guests debating the week's religious and ethical news.

* Access the programme online here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007cphf/broadcasts/2015/04

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