OXFORD, England (CNS) — The European Union fails to protect the human dignity of refugees and asylum seekers, who often are unnecessarily held in detention facilities or in prison, the European Conference of Justice and Peace Commissions said.
The Brussels, Belgium-based conference also urged the EU to adopt an immigration policy guided by "solidarity and shared responsibility" after its October general assembly in Athens, Greece.
The conference is an alliance of church justice commissions promoting Catholic social teaching.
"Keeping these people, often victims of violence and trauma, in detention and imprisonment is a grave injustice. In such conditions, provisions for physical and mental health and well-being are glaringly inadequate, and the right to family life is not respected," the conference said in a statement.
The organization said the impact of Europe’s economic crisis had been "particularly stark and visible" in Greece, where meeting "the basic needs of all members of society" had been prevented by "structural and systemic factors which trap people in cycles of poverty and deprivation," and which required changes of government policy.
Greece itself had faced "deep political alienation" because of its economic problems, which had brought "a moral and social crisis requiring a fundamental change in direction," the conference said, adding that the country should stop "prioritizing financial considerations over basic human rights and well-being," and that greater help could come from the EU’s Refugee Fund.
Meanwhile, Catholic bishops in Austria marked World Mission Sunday Oct. 19 by also appealing for solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers.
In a pastoral letter distributed nationwide the bishops said citizens were "confronted daily via the media with misery, poverty, oppression and natural disasters," as men, women and children drowned in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to reach the "freedom and security" of Europe.
"The Mediterranean threatens to become a huge cemetery — people exploited and robbed of their dignity are fleeing from war, violence and terror crammed into boats," the bishops said.
"One does not have to be a Christian, only a human being with a compassionate heart, to be shaken and moved in your innermost being by the images reaching us each day. But you cannot remain a Christian if you close your doors to the suffering of your neighbor, beginning with the doors of your heart," the statement said.
European church groups have repeatedly urged fairer treatment for refugees and asylum-seekers. More than 22,000 migrants, most from Africa and the Middle East, have died trying to reach Europe since 2000, according to the International Organization for Migration.
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