UK

Migrants: Britain has 'moral duty' to help, says bishop

Migrants wait to disembark at Catania harbour, Sicily Image copyright AP

Britain has a "moral responsibility" to help refugees from conflicts in which it has participated, the Bishop of Manchester says.

The Right Reverend David Walker also said migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe were victims, not criminals.

He writes in the Observer that they are "pushed, not pulled, towards the EU".

Some 1,750 migrants are thought have died this year while attempting to cross from Africa to Europe.

More than 35,000 migrants are believed to have made the crossing, many of whom were fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

'Moral cost'

Bishop Walker told the BBC's Radio 4 Sunday programme: "We actually need to recognise that in Britain in particular, given that we have intervened so often in Africa and other parts of the world, that we have a kind of moral responsibility when we have left certain states behind in a very unstable situation."

And he says in his newspaper article that migrants are "forced out of their homelands by war, terrorism and the persecution of minorities".

He added: "A political rhetoric that characterises them as wilful criminals rather than helpless victims is as unworthy as it is untrue.

"The moral cost of our continual overseas interventions has to include accepting a fair share of the victims of the wars to which we have contributed as legitimate refugees in our own land.

"I want my country to be governed by those who are prepared to look at the faces of the desperate, be it the desperation of the asylum seeker or of the food bank client, and to look at them with compassion."

Image copyright Presser
Image caption Bishop David Walker says people are forced toward European nations by conflict and hardship

Funding increased

The bishop's comments come after more than 750 people died on a boat crossing from Libya a week ago.

Following crisis talks in Brussels, European leaders are to triple funding for rescue operations aimed at migrant boats in the Mediterranean.

The boost in funding to some £86m brings spending back up to about the level of Mare Nostrum, an Italian-run search-and-rescue operation that was cancelled last year.

Several member states pledged additional naval resources, including the UK, which has previously been a leading advocate of reducing naval patrols.

It now said it would contribute helicopter carrier HMS Bulwark, two patrol boats and three helicopters. Germany, France and Belgium have also offered ships.

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