In a video interview, Dr Torsten Moritz, general secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, gives an update of the new EU Migration Pact, and the importance of input from faith-based organizations working to change unbearable conditions for thousands of migrants and refugees.
The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe continues to help to lead a dialogue between global religious groups and the European Commission offices in Brussels.
Moritz expressed appreciation for the ecumenical response to the pact, which comprises12 different documents and almost 500 pages of text.
The most central concerns expressed by the ecumenical community have been that the pact must offer durable solutions, confirm the right to seek asylum, and make a strong call for solidarity and safe passages.
“We really talked to lots of the people who were behind drafting the documents,” said Moritz. “We always have also input from others.”
Regarding the issue of safe asylum, there are concerns about upholding the human rights of people fleeing life-threatening situations in their home countries, said Moritz.
“What’s going to happen to these people?” he asked. “Where do they stay? The proposal says a lot of people will be sent back immediately. I think there’s a lot of devil in the detail that will determine whether it will work and whether it will work in a humane way.”
Moritz also urged policymakers to be very clear about the EU’s role among all nations supporting refugees. “Let’s be very clear: we are also supporting the notion that people should be supported as close as possible to their home country,” he said. “If you’re really serious about keeping people in the region, the EU needs to do a lot more. Some countries showed a major responsibility and often have a feeling of being very much alone. What will happen if these people can’t be returned? All that is still very, very unclear.”
Although the EU Migration Pact is being proposed as a new set of policies, Moritz is concerned that the treatment of migrants and refugees will be much the same.
“The rights of those who are arriving are coming very, very last or are not even being considered,” he said. “The fundamental problem is that there are rules but they’re not implemented.”
He urged churches to bring their experience of reality into the discussion. “If you’re working as a church supporting these people, there might not be a flight to the home country,” he said.
The pact and the decisions surrounding it are not always easy to understand, acknowledged Moritz. “We will be organizing sessions that inform people what is in the proposals,” he said. “We want to open up the debate. We want to raise our concerns.”
What’s proposed now is not, in fact, very new, he concluded. “How can we get those who want to change things, who want to maintain a European humanitarian tradition, to work together to bring things forward?” he asked. “We’re talking about a marathon, not a short-distance sprint.”