On Wednesday, Bishop Paul McAleenan lamented the deaths of four family members who drowned trying to make their way across the English Channel.
Rasoul Iran-Nejad and Shiva Mohammad Panahi, both aged 35, died alongside their children Anita, aged 9, and Armin, aged 6, as they made their way from France to the UK on Tuesday.
The Kurdish-Iranian family’s 15-month-old baby, Artin, has yet to be found, whilst fifteen other migrants on the boat were rescued and taken to hospital.
Bishop McAleenan, auxiliary bishop of Westminster, said we should be “united” in our response to the tragedy:
“All who value human life, whatever their position on migrants and refugees, will be united in sorrow following yesterday’s tragedy in the Channel,” he said in a statement.
“Immediate thoughts should be with the adults and children who died, their families wherever they are in the world, and their companions who will remember forever what they witnessed. It is hoped that no one will want to make a mere political point because of the incident.”
McAleenan, Chair of the Office for Migration Policy, said that such unity is needed to respond politically to the challenge of unsafe migrant crossings:
“What is truly needed is a meeting of minds. That will require a shifting of mindset on the part of those who set the rules, and the pursuit of heartless profiteers to ensure that no one feels compelled or encouraged to risk their life, or that of their children, in a dangerous craft on the open sea.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with the victims and he promised to tackle the smugglers responsible for the crossings.
“My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel today. We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident and will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.”
Back in July, Bishop McAleenan responded critically to Britain and France’s joint Declaration of Intent to establish an Operational Research Unit that would target the criminal gang networks behind migrant smuggling.
The bishop said that the two countries should prioritise trying to “eradicate the underlying reasons why these same people are willing to risk their lives in the open sea.”
“I would like to see the details of the agreement between the UK and France, that would indicate how they understand and perceive what is taking place in the English Channel,” he continued.
“Surely two countries which pride themselves on being progressive and enlightened will see that the welfare of those who are destitute is vital. Protection of people should be foremost in their thinking.”
Featured Image: Bishop Paul McAleenan, centre, meets charity workers and volunteers helping refugees in Dover, England, Sept. 15, 2020. Credit: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.