The Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) called attention to the lack of freedom and the search for better living conditions as causes for the tragic deaths of countless migrants such as in Lampedusa this month.
Two shipwrecks, occurring days within each other this month, took the lives of hundreds of migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Pope Francis visited the Sicilian island in July, bringing attention to the plight of migrants and the difficulties they face.
In a statement sent to Fides News Agency, the African bishops expressed their surprise that despite the dangers, refugees continue to embark on the journey which they note is due to poor political and economic conditions in their countries of origin.” Most of the migrants who arrive in Lampedusa hail from Somalia and Eritrea.
“In the case of Somalia, al-Shabaab militia has been terrorizing the people since 1994. The results of this are social and economic problems. The political atmosphere in Eritrea has also pushed most of these migrants out of their country. There is hardly freedom of any form – no press freedom, no religious freedom and no right to assemble. These people are said to be looking for a meaning to life”, the statement from SECAM read.
Recalling the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Africa , “Governance, the Common Good and Democratic Transitions in Africa”, the statement continues, “the drama of migration, with a growing number of young people who risk their lives to leave Africa, reflects the depth of the malaise of a continent that is still dragging its feet to provide favourable conditions such as employment, education and good health”.
“After more than 50 years of independence, the continent of Africa is still engulfed in endless violence, illegal armed groups continue to threaten the safety of people, as in the case of Lampedusa ship incident”, the African bishops emphasized.
The communique concludes by appealing to the responsibility of African institutions so that they work to coordinate policies to control migration flows and especially begin a process of improving the living conditions of their States. They also asked the countries in Europe to revise its immigration legislation and treat “these migrants with greater compassion”.