Italian Evangelicals Call for Open Channels of African Migration into Europe

TOPSHOT - Migrants from Tunisia and Lybia arrive onboard of an Italian Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard) boat in the Italian Pelagie Island of Lampedusa on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — A prominent Protestant leader in Italy has called for streamlined channels of immigration from Africa into Europe after some 370 migrants arrived on the island of Lampedusa Saturday night.

Paolo Naso, coordinator of Mediterranean Hope, the migrant and refugee program of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, said Sunday that the current situation on Lampedusa is “undeniably unsustainable” both for migrants and residents, while calling for the immediate activation of “even temporary networks for the immediate reception of the most vulnerable subjects.”

“For our part, we are engaged in assisting the landings to help associations and institutions to manage the first moments of the arrivals of these people,” Mr. Naso said. “As Protestant churches we are ready to collaborate with institutions and other associations to seek solutions related to this emergency.”

“We are facing an emergency that was, however, entirely predictable, given the conditions in Tunisia and Libya,” he added.

Opposing efforts by Matteo Salvini’s Lega party to control immigration by securing ports and borders, Naso insisted that the only real solution is to open regular channels of legal immigration.

“We reiterate that the only strategy to combat ‘irregular’ migration is to open legal, safe channels, managed at the European level,” he said.

“In the meantime, our utmost solidarity with those who continue to save lives in the Mediterranean,” Naso said. “While others shout hateful words, which risk inciting violence, we choose acceptance.”

Naso also expressed his condolences for a young migrant who died during the crossing, whose body was brought to Lampedusa Saturday.

Lampedusa’s migrant welcome center is currently filled to overflowing, with 1,219 migrants in residence.

Local mayor Totò Martello has called for a general strike to draw the attention of the national government to the management of the situation and on Sunday local entrepreneurs and traders staged a protest.

Banners of demonstrators included messages such as “Stop Immigrants,” “Close Lampedusa Welcome Center,” and “Criminal Government.”

Matteo Salvini, leader of the populist Lega party, has blamed the leftist coalition government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for the recent surge in illegal migrants.

Last month, Mr. Salvini noted that “landings have tripled since last year, with illegal immigrants being recovered even near Maltese waters, while Lampedusa is collapsing and hundreds of immigrants flee the reception centers who risk spreading Covid-19.”

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