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World News

'What are we doing as Christians if we can't solve asylum crisis?' Baptist minister laments Italian boat tragedy

by Donna Birrell

People should remember the individual stories of asylum seekers before rushing to judge, according to the Public Issues Enabler for the Baptist Union.

Rev Steve Tinning was speaking to Premier after dozens of refugees drowned after their boat sank off the southern coast of Italy at the weekend. Italian authorities fear the number of dead could be more than a 100 after 60 bodies were discovered.

“It’s unimaginable the suffering and the sadness and the pain of yet another boat of lost lives in the Mediterranean," he said. "It’s heart-breaking and this is an international problem of countries that are needing to do more to try and find safe routes to enable asylum seekers and refugees to reach safety without having to resort to these kinds of journeys.”

The boat is believed to have been carrying around 150 passengers from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Rev Tinning says that unless governments adopt different policies, more deaths will follow. He wants to see greater international collaboration to properly identify the percentage of asylum seekers countries can accept. He also wants international laws that ensure safe routes can be established :

“We take on less than 1% of the world's refugees and asylum seekers at the moment and I'm just not convinced that we haven't got space. I just think that we lack the will to support and to help those most suffering.

“Asylum seekers are forced to take those routes when there aren't safe options available to them. So inevitably, we're going to be seeing more of these and the numbers increase year in year out as governments get stricter and stricter.”

“There are monitoring groups that have said that in the Mediterranean, there have been as many as 20,000 people lost at sea since 2014. This is an extraordinary number of people, and it's really easy to demonise migrants and asylum seekers, because when they arrive, countries see them as a burden. But it takes away something of the humanity of people that are victims.

“It’s the individual stories – one of the children that died in this recent boat was a baby, there were many other children that died. If we can't find a way to bring human face to those that are dying, and find solutions to it, rather than constantly adopting policies that try to push them away, then I just don't know what we're doing as Christians.”




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