Written by Fiona Kendall
Our last newsletter reported the plight of 49 migrants trapped in the Mediterranean following their rescue by NGO boats during the course of December. We are delighted to report that the deadlock is now broken.
The Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) has long spoken out against the EU’s failure to agree a coherent policy to be activated whenever any rescue is carried out. In solidarity with those trapped at sea, and determined to see conditions for herself, FCEI vice-President Christiane Groeben went aboard one of the trapped vessels on Friday, 4th January. On the same day, FCEI President Luca Maria Negro reiterated the FCEI’s offer, in tandem with the Diaconia Valdese, to host migrants brought ashore to Italy. The FCEI, through its humanitarian corridors programme and work with the Diaconia Valdese, has built up a wealth of experience in this area and, once again, saw fit to offer radical hospitality in line with the Gospel message.
During the night of January 9-10, after days of wrangling and negotiation, the call came to confirm that the offer would be accepted by the Italian government. Malta has permitted the boats to disembark on the basis that eight EU member states, including Italy, will host the migrants. The Italian government has agreed to this on the basis that the FCEI and Diaconia Valdese will in fact take responsibility for those brought to Italy, at no cost to the Italian state. It will be for the FCEI and Diaconia Valdese to find the right accommodation and provide ongoing support for these people, all of which will be funded by the 8/1000 tax allocation of the Waldensian Church and our other donors.
Mediterranean Hope’s commitment to ongoing SAR operations in the Mediterranean Sea was formalized last spring when the FCEI entered into partnership with Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, and further strengthened by its subsequent collaborations with German NGO Sea-Watch and French NGO Pilotes Volontaires. Financial support aside, Mediterranean Hope team members have participated in several missions during which hundreds of migrants have been rescued from the sea. For the FCEI to offer direct support to those rescued, as it has done for many years now, is entirely in keeping with that ethos.
“The FCEI remains willing to test the boundaries of what it means to welcome the stranger. However, EU member states cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of those who continue to attempt to cross the sea. In our view, safe passage via Europe-wide humanitarian corridors is best way forward. Meantime, the need for a coherent SAR policy could not be more urgent.“
Paolo Naso, Co-ordinator, Mediterranean Hope, 10th January 2019