Caritas Workers: We'll Be There

Affirm Commitment to Refugee Situation Generated by Arab Spring

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By Chiara Santomiero

ROME, JUNE 26, 2011 ( Though the situation in North Africa has those who assist refugees and migrants feeling particularly strained right now, the Church will continue to be on site and dedicated, says the director of Caritas in Italy, Monsignor Vittorio Nozza.

The monsignor affirmed this during the MigraMed meeting that ended Saturday in Rome. It brought together the national Caritas organizations of various Mediterranean countries that are involved in handling the emergency provoked by the North African revolutions and the current situation in Syria.

Monsignor Nozza noted that Italian Caritas finds itself working on two fronts: «On one hand, in support of the diocesan Caritas agencies in their efforts in the regions that are receiving the migrants, and on the other hand, in the discussions in concert with the other international organizations, with the institutional departments charged with migrant affairs.»

Bishop Mariano Crociata, secretary-general of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, announced at the conclusion of their meeting in March that 93 Italian dioceses have offered 1,500 locations to help with the refugee reception emergency. The majority of these refugees have arrived on the Island of Lampedusa.

«All of this,» Monsignor Nozza said, «is taking place in a phase of great political and juridical ambiguity, which does not make it easy for us to be involved in a complete and purposeful manner and exposes us to great risks.»

The MigraMed meeting was organized by Caritas Europe and Caritas Internationalis to share experiences and seek common positions in regard to the flow of migrants from Africa toward Europe.

The situation of refugee routes from Libya was especially evaluated. French Caritas, Lebanese Caritas and the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services report that 350,000 persons have crossed over the border with Tunisia and 600,000 persons have crossed over the border with Egypt.

Tens of thousands of refugees on these fronts have been cared for by the local Caritas groups while Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Europe have concerned themselves with supporting them, and in constant monitoring of the situations in North Africa to understand the geography of the movements, which is continually updated.

«The flow of refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, which is no longer able to move toward Libya, is now directing itself toward Algeria and Morocco,» explained Father Cesare Bladi, director of Caritas Algeria.

The director of Caritas Morocco also noted the arrival of refugees from Somalia. 

All of this obviously carries with it heavy weight for the Caritas organizations of North Africa, which must make an extra effort to intercept and offer assistance to the growing number of refugees.

In light of the current situation, the participants in MigraMed recognized the need to reinforce and extend the network of affected Caritas agencies to bring about a more coordinated action on both the northern and southern sides of the Mediterranean.

There was also a recognition of a need to link up with other international organizations, Catholic and secular, such as the Jesuit Refugee Service, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.

In regard to Italian Caritas and its commitment at various levels, «as an organization of the Church,» Monsignor Nozza said, «we are asked to be present and we will continue to be in a dedicated and clear way, with the appropriate means.»

He added that it is a question of «special attention on top of daily work, above all through the presence of the diocesan and parish Caritas groups in the areas of reception and protection.»

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