Speaking at the end of a week that saw some 70 would-be asylum seekers drown off Malta, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday appealed to politicians in both Africa and Europe to tackle the problems behind illegal immigration.
"The emergency into which the wave of migration has recently developed demands our solidarity, but at the same time needs an effective political response," he said during his weekly Angelus address to thousands of Roman Catholic faithful in St Peter's Square.
The countries of origin as well as the countries which migrants were desperately trying to reach all needed to work towards removing the need to migrate and the crimes associated with illegal migration.
Each year tens of thousands of would-be migrants make hazardous crossings across the Mediterranean from African to European Union countries, leading to tragedies like that off Malta earlier this week.
Seventy would-be African immigrants perished when their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea, according to eight companions rescued off Malta on Wednesday. This was one of the worst incidents of life loss at sea this year. The fishing boat Madonna Di Pompei rescued the eight men from a dinghy that was taking in water, and passed them on to an AFM patrol boat.
According to Neil Falzon, a UNHCR representative who has spoken with some of the survivors, the migrants left Libya’s coast on Thursday. On Monday, the dinghy started taking in water until it overturned. The survivors held on to the dinghy until they were spotted by the Madonna Di Pompei on Wednesday night. The group was originally made up of about 78, of whom four were women, three of them pregnant. According to media reports, the survivors are Eritean, Ghanaian, Somali and Sudanese.
The last case of serious loss of life off Malta’s shores came in May last year when 53 would-be immigrants perished at sea.
Medecins sans Frontiers estimates that some 380 illegal immigrants have died at sea over the first six months of 2008 in the Sicily Canal, the Mediterranean strip between Sicily and Tunisia. About 500 died there in 2006.
Copyright 2008 by MaltaMedia.com