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German Protestant Church to send ship to Mediterranean

Michaela Cavanagh with dpa
September 12, 2019

The Protestant Church is calling for a political solution to the migration crisis in Europe. The Catholic Church's bishop council declined to say whether it would implement a similar measure.

Italien Nähe Lampedusa | Rettungsschiff Mare Jonio | Flüchtlinge
Image: Reuters/D. Zammit Lupi

Germany's Protestant Church will send a ship to the Mediterranean to rescue migrants attempting to make the crossing into Europe, the church council head said Thursday.

"It's more than symbolism, it is about taking exemplary action. People will be rescued in the Mediterranean," said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

The announcement follows a proposal put forward at the Protestant Church's congress earlier this year.

For decades, the Protestant Church has been working in African nations to combat the reasons people flee their homes, Bedford-Strohm said.

Read more: 6 EU nations agree to take in 'Ocean Viking' migrants

The church wants to push for a political solution to the migration crisis in Europe.

"We need a distribution mechanism in Europe that avoids having to hold a debate for every single ship and discuss whether people can come to land and where they can go," he said.

The church will not be responsible for operating the ship, but will establish a private organization to handle the operational logistics.

The process of purchasing the ship, refurbishing it and conducting other preparations will take months, Bedford-Strohm said.

Read more: Sea-Watch rescuers slam 'shameful' German, EU refugee policy

Germany's Catholic Church would not comment directly on whether it is planning a similar initiative. "The church already supports rescue operations in the Mediterranean in a multitude of ways," the spokesman of the Catholic Church's Bishop conference in Germany, Matthias Kopp, said to DPA.

Bedford-Strohm called for putting a stop to the criminalization of rescue efforts in the Mediterranean and for European governments to reinstate state-led rescue missions. "Those who save people from drowning should not be criminalized," he said.

He added that it's irresponsible to return migrants to Libya where they would wind up in Libyan camps, the conditions of which are "appalling and in some cases, inhumane," according to the project leader of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Libya, Christophe Hey.

mmc/stb (dpa/AFP)

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