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Bishop says Europe must take refugees

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Bishop says Europe must take refugees
Refugees from Tunisia arrive at Lampedusa. Photo: DPA
09:36 CEST+02:00
Germany and Europe should open their doors to refugees fleeing North African unrest and instability rather than barricading the borders, according to the Evangelical Bishop of Central Germany, Ilse Junkermann.

Junkermann said in an interview that those fleeing violence in places such as Libya should be granted safety and help.

“That we should help civil war refugees should not be put under question,” she said. “That is Christian duty, citizens’ duty in a global society.”

Europe must help – not only in Libya itself but also here in accepting refugees.

Referring to the current arguments over what to do with the illegal immigrants who have already landed in Italy, she said, “I find it disturbing how politics is being conducted on the backs of those people concerned.”

It is not possible to simply refuse entry, she said. “That is too little in a globalised world where one demands the ability to act as free as possible worldwide in ones own interests.”

Junkermann said the European Union should develop a migration and integration policy for refugees. “There is a clear policy which grants freedom of movement within the European region, and that the borders are open. But the price is high – the borders are as good as closed to the outside.”

This was unfair, she said, and said that a “certain permeability of European borders,” should be the aim.

Instead, those willing to risk their lives enter illegally and take their chances once here.

Around 26,000 people have made it across the Mediterranean so far this year, with many landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa which is just 150 kilometres from the Tunisian coast. Most end up interned in overcrowded camps.

To relieve the pressure, Italy has started issuing refugees from Tunisia with six-month Italian visas which give them the right to move throughout the EU.

This has infuriated many other European politicians – not least French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He has mooted lifting the Schengen agreement which abolished border checks between EU member states, in order to try to stop North African refugees from heading to France.

The German Interior Ministry said it was monitoring the situation and was prepared to strengthen border checks, although there was no indication that many North African refuges would be heading for Germany.

Nonetheless, Bavarian state Interior Minister Joachim Hermann said he was outraged by the Italian move. “The behaviour of the Italian government is unreasonable,” he told Der Spiegel magazine.

“Italy must stop granting residence permits to Tunisian economic refugees as soon as possible.”

The first Tunisian with such a visa was spotted in Germany last week according to a report in Der Spiegel.

The man not only had the correct paperwork but also enough money for his stay in Germany, the report said, so the border police who had been making a routine check on a train from Milan to Munich, did not stop him.

DPA/hc

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