Caritas Internationalis Urges Protection for Migrants After Boat Capsizes off Libyan Coast

Migrants on an overcrowded boat awaiting help/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

Following the capsizing of a boat off the coast of Libya, the April 22-23 incident that left at least 130 migrants dead, the leadership of the global confederation of Catholic relief agencies, Caritas Internationalis (CI), has called for the setting up of mechanisms to safeguard the rights of migrants. 

In their Wednesday, April 28 statement, CI officials say it is “the indifference and lack of political will that led to the deaths” of the migrants. 

“The confederation calls for mechanisms to be put in place to protect the rights and dignity of migrants along their journey, to ensure safe and legal migration routes, and to intensify support to local communities in the countries of origin so that people are not forced to migrate,” CI officials say.

They add, “As media attention for the tragedy begins to wane, as it always does, Caritas Internationalis is sounding the alarm with its appeal to keep attention focused on the drama of migrants and to ensure that international outrage is followed by concrete actions.”

“We cannot continue to look the other way or to witness the sad and ignoble scenario of governments passing the responsibility to each other to the detriment of human lives, the value of which seems non-existent today,” the Secretary-General of CI, Aloysius John, has been quoted as saying in the report. 


Mr. John adds, “We must all feel responsible and not forget that these migrants left their countries, because of the consequences of our modern unjust society which does not allow them to live in dignity in their homeland.”

Making reference to Pope Francis who has referred to the tragedy off the Libyan coast as a “moment of shame”, the CI official says the incident “must be followed by the moment of political will, welcome, legality and action.”

While addressing the faithful gathered in Vatican’s St Peter's Square for the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer on April 25, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the migrants who “for two whole days begged in vain for help, help that never came.”

“We pray for these brothers and sisters, and for so many who continue to die on these dramatic journeys. We also pray for those who can help but prefer to look the other way. We pray in silence,” the Holy Father said. 

In their April 28 statement, CI officials say, “It is a shame that the international community does not want to take responsibility to save them (migrants).”

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“Each face that perished represents scars of violence, misery, poverty, hunger, and helplessness. They were entering the jaws of death with the hope that they can find a better life elsewhere,” they say in reference to the victims of the April 22 to 23 tragedy off the coast of the North African country.

“The Mediterranean Sea is a cemetery for thousands of such migrants and will continue to be unless the international community decides to act,” CI officials say.

They add, “The closing of borders is paramount to hypocrisy because the main cause of poverty in migrants’ countries of origin is found in political, economic, and geostrategic choices of the rich countries favoring the exploitation of local resources, in complicity with corrupt local leaders who are kept in power while oppressing their population.”

“A sustainable and long-lasting solution to prevent such tragedies cannot be found, unless there is the political will to develop the least developed countries, and unless all efforts are undertaken to promote democracy through people’s participation,” CI officials further say.

As a way forward, they call on decision-makers across the globe to “adopt mechanisms to enable the safe and legal migration of migrants and refugees, to avoid the repetition of new massacres in the Mediterranean Sea.”


They also urge the decision-makers to “do all that is possible to receive migrants in dignity as victims of modern exploitation and corruption.”

Officials of the confederation that works with migrants through different projects further call for the allocation of “international aid for promoting sustainable community-based micro-projects to enable the prevention of migration as a means of survival.”

“Give ample support to NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) involved in receiving and accompanying the migrants so that they can continue their mission,” CI officials say.