Cardinal Peter Turkson, the highest ranking African prelate in the Vatican, said it is high time to “close the tap” of African immigration into Europe, which has reached new records in recent days.
Asked about recent rumblings that Italian authorities are finally ready to close down ports and begin turning away ships filled with migrants, Turkson told reporters the time has come to “turn off the faucet” of African migration to Europe and instead focus on migrants’ countries of origin.
“It is like water flowing from an open tap,” he said. “It’s not enough just to dry it, you have to turn off the faucet,” he added, noting that the vast majority of African countries are not war zones from which the populations must necessarily flee. “In my opinion, we can change things in order to keep young people where they are.”
The Cardinal is the chairman of the Vatican office of integral human development, which was born on January 1 as a merger of four former departments and is responsible for issues such as justice, peace, environment, health, humanitarian aid and migration.
Earlier this week, Italian leaders suggested they may finally be ready to block the massive flows of migrants arriving by sea from North Africa, declaring that the current situation is “unsustainable.” Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Italy “cannot go on like this,” while accusing other EU nations of “looking the other way,” a criticism echoed by the Ghanaian cardinal.
Turkson said that the rest of Europe has not been “playing its part” in dealing with the migration crisis, which has forced Italy into a situation of emergency.
At the same time, he suggested that closing Italian ports is not sufficient to completely remedy the problem, which must be addressed at the root.
While “the decision of the Italians is internal to Europe,” Turkson said, “one cannot take care of these questions only in Europe.”
“The big problem is addressing this issue at its source from the angle of development, to ensure that people stop arriving into Europe,” said the cardinal.
Turkson insisted that his hardline position is not contradictory to the Christian notion of acting as “good Samaritans” with people in difficulty, but addresses the reality of what countries can bear and what is ultimately causing the crisis.
Earlier this week, some 13,500 African migrants arrived on Italian shores in the space of just 48 hours, leading local media as well as politicians to speak of an authentic immigrant “invasion” exceeding the country’s capacity of assimilation.
According to official figures, more than 73,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year, which represents a rise of more than 14 percent over the same period in 2016, when then-record arrivals had reached 64,133.
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