Germany's Protestant Church is to send a ship to the Mediterranean in a bid to rescue migrants who are attempting to make the perilous crossing into Europe. The boat, Sea-Watch 4, will embark on its mission sometime over the next few days, departing from the seaport of Burriana, near Valencia, in Spain.
"It's more than symbolism, it is about taking exemplary action," Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), told German outlet DW. "People will be rescued in the Mediterranean."
The rescue mission will be managed by a group called United4Rescue and is being led by the church and supported by over 500 other organisations - it has only been made possible through a successful crowdfunding campaign called "#WeSendAShip".
"We connect all social organisations and groups that do not want to stand by and watch thousands of people die in the Mediterranean,” United4Rescue declares on its website. “With the collection of donations, we support rescue organisations that act humanitarianly [sic], where politics fail. We are non-profit and finance ourselves, exclusively through donations. We expect clear responses from the European governments to our demands."
Bedford Strohjm says more must be done to try and safely resettle refugees in Germany and across Europe: "We need a distribution mechanism in Europe that avoids having to hold a debate for every single ship and discuss whether people can come to land and where they can go."
He also called on European governments to launch more state-led rescue missions and said that those involved in voluntary efforts should never be prosecuted. "Those who save people from drowning should not be criminalized," he said.
Today, Home Secretary Priti Patel suggested calling on the Royal Navy to help intercept those crossing the channel into the UK, amid a spike in numbers of those reaching British shores - on Thursday, a record-breaking 235 migrants arrived on 17 vessels.
However, a Ministry Defence source called the plan "beyond absurd".
"We don't resort to deploying armed force to deal with political failings", the source told PA. "It's beyond absurd to think that we should be deploying multi-million pound ships and elite soldiers to deal with desperate people barely staying afloat on rubber dinghies in the Channel."