Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney comments on Mediterranean Migrants Crisis

April 24, 2015

In writing in today’s  Press & Journal newspaper The Rt Rev Dr Robert Gillies, Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney highlights the tragedy of the Mediterranean migrants crisis saying:

“The tragedy of the ocean liner the Titanic sinking in the North Atlantic is part of our folklore psyche. And yet over the last two weeks or so there has been loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea equivalent to the loss of two Titanics.

“We cannot allow this awfulness to continue. But stopping it can neither be quick nor will it be easy.

“From one aspect we can’t blame those who from the sub-Sahara want to escape terror and unsafe conditions in those countries which have been their home. Security and safety has been robbed from them by the brutality of regimes who rule them or by the insurgency groups who terrorise them. We’d do the same were we in their position.

“I’ve no doubt they are tricked or lured into the thought that transfer from Africa to the continent of Europe would be straightforward. And so they part with what for them are huge sums of money to enable their migration.

“In a sense we should be flattered that they seek to come and live amongst us. Northern Europe, and not least our country offers, on the whole, a very agreeable prospect when viewed from afar.

“So if the migrants want or need to come because of fear and turbulence back home, and the prospect is of peace here what can be done to stop the tsunami that is stepping onto the death boats in Libyan docks? Several things are my answer.

“The terrorist threats that are posed by death and torture need to be neutralised. The mistake of Iraq must not be revisited. A nuanced but ultimately decisive campaign of counter insurgency and counter terrorism is one of the few options available against asymmetric warfare. Conventional means by land attack will prove ineffective.

“Simultaneous with that a means of informing would-be migrants not to leave their countries of origin must similarly be staged. Old-fashioned, but time honoured leaflet drops from the air over these areas, as well as over the Libyan coastline is one way. More up to date methods through extensive social media into these countries is another as is the not quite out of date use of traditional radio.

“Next, what about those who are, as I write these words, actually setting out to sea. Greece, Malta and Italy cannot and should not be expected to shoulder the burden that currently the rest of Europe risks evading. A shared humanitarian response where we all, from whatever country and from whatever political persuasion, recognise that these people need our help and our care is required. Nothing less will do.

“And then you and me. We too have a responsibility.

“When I was a junior priest in Falkirk,  Vietnamese Boat People were welcomed into the community. I was assigned to visit a number of these families. They were drawn into local areas and welcomed by the generous hearts of the warm nation that we are.

“The same can happen again.

“The migrants are already on our shores and we must take them in as well as try to change those situations which have forced them to leave the countries of their birth.

“Scotland and the UK are not a single people. We are a rich nation made so by the inward migration of those who value what we have, over the centuries, created from and with the historic threads that bind us back through the Vikings to the ancients who walked our land and fished our seas.

“This same spirit of warm welcome must now mark our attitude to the desperate souls who seek to come and live near us.

“If we do not seek to help them, and reverse the political instability that has made them flee, then history, at the very least, will hold our failing to account.” – ends-