The Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, considers the roots of the current global migration crisis.
Over the last few weeks, there has been significant discussion about immigration in the media. Western countries, particularly those in the European Union, and the United States, are very concerned about the number of immigrants who arrive on their land by using illegal methods. During the last few years, thousands of these immigrants have lost their lives by drowning in the Mediterranean Sea as they attempt to go from the shores of north Africa to Europe. Many of these immigrants are from sub-Saharan Africa.
Some of them walk the entire way to reach north Africa. I know that it is not easy to welcome large numbers of illegal immigrants. It is also risky for many countries to do so, especially during a time when terrorism is a major threat to security of almost all countries. This threat is behind many of the summit meetings about stopping illegal immigration that occurred over the last month.
I appeal to the leaders of western countries to re-evaluate the reasons for such phenomenal rates of immigration. Most of the immigrants are economic ones. They are so incredibly desperate in their own countries that they are willing to risk their lives by illegally crossing borders and using dangerous boats to cross the Mediterranean. No one would risk their life, let along the lives of their families, unless they were desperate.
I hope that the leaders of the European Union and the United States will gather together and develop a strategic plan for increasing sustainable development in the countries from which these immigrants originate. Sustainable development will improve the availability of job opportunities, and will also help in improving the economic status of these countries. If such development occurs, I am sure people will be happy to stay in their countries among their own families.
Another reason for immigration is the conflicts and wars in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and South Sudan. The warring parties in these countries often obtain their weapons through western countries. This flow of weapons needs to be controlled in order to stop the vicious circle of violence.
I am sure that western countries are involved in development, but the need is much greater than what they currently contribute. Providing more help to refugees’ countries of origin today will help western countries tomorrow.