In the Mediterranean Sea, five years after Operation Mare Nostrum and the establishment of MOAS, many things have changed. Despite the wider spread of coronavirus in Europe, migrant people are continually trying to escape across the Mediterranean Sea. At this moment, as most governments are now focusing on internal problems, issues relating to migrants and refugees have become massively neglected. However, as Europe remains blind and deaf to them, these people continue to risk their lives attempting to cross the sea. But what is more frightening is that no one is looking for a solution for both refugees and other migrants. Politicians are exploiting the issue of COVID-19 to amplify fears regarding migrants and the migratory phenomenon. I believe that the limitations and restrictions of movement and loss of lives caused by the pandemic have led to further closures, justified by states of emergency, which have promoted an agenda of not accepting migrant people. Now that we are facing the experience of the pandemic, the need for safe and legal routes is even more urgent. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers must be allowed to reach countries in safety and under control.

Civil society now wants to see a shift in European policies on border management. There is no “migrant crisis” in Europe. There is a crisis of leadership and of solidarity.

In the last weeks, Ursula von der Leyen sent out an important message: we need to change the Dublin III Regulation. Europe needs to implement policies to facilitate and accelerate safe and legal routes such as family reunification as well as different types of visas and sponsorships so that people do not risk their lives at sea. The implementation of safe and legal routes is essential to avoid a reliance within the asylum-seeking community on irregular methods of travel to safe countries. The benefits of safe and legal routes are vast but can be summarized simply in three categories: humanitarian, economic and security focused.  Without safe and legal access to protection, migrants are at the mercy of smugglers and human traffickers, in danger of becoming victims of exploitation and violence, and pushed to risk their lives on ever more perilous journeys over land and sea, which many do not survive. Expanding safe and legal pathways for refugees to reach Europe is therefore central to stop these tragedies and diminish human traffickers’ power, and to provide equally accessible solutions for all, thereby increasing transparency and cohesion. We need to implement a medium and long-term structural migration policy to replace the current emergency policy.

From his first visit to Lampedusa, Pope Francis has always paid great attention to these issues. The Pope is putting into practice the word of God by giving support to people fleeing war and poverty. The Church has repeatedly launched appeals in favor of the world’s most vulnerable migrant populations. Many nuns, bishops and priests are engaging in daily activities to help migrants and those most in need. The controversial positions of sections of the Church, such as the Polish one, are unfortunately ones which stain the work of a Church that is plural and open to others. I wonder what gospel they read. Migration and religions should never be exploited by politics or for any other reason. Church is not golden walls or chandeliers, but it is the word of God, which is not just for the service of the more fortunate. I believe that the Church should take care of every soul.

Souls have no color!