Churches offer solidarity to refugees in Italy

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A local priest has joined a delegation of young men from churches across Britain and Ireland who are visiting Italy to hear first hand testimony from refugees and staff in camps and support projects on the islands of Sicily and Lampedusa.

Fr Sean Gilbert, Church of England Priest and assistant curate of Christ Church, St Leonards, is part of the delegation of seven men taking the five day fact-finding trip, which was organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI). The event follows on from a delegation of women who visited refugee women and families on Greece last year.

Overland Balkan routes into Europe are all but closed. After the signing of the EU agreement with Turkey last April, the primary entry point into Europe switched from Greece to the central Mediterranean, with the majority of people crossing by sea into Italy from sub-Saharan Africa. More than four in five (83 per cent) of first time asylum seekers in the European Union in 2016 were less than 35 years old.

Alan Meban coordinates CTBI’s Focus on Refugees project and is co-leading the delegation. He said: “We are going to Sicily and Lampedusa to encounter, to listen and to reflect with refugees – and in particular the young men – who are making the perilous journey to safety in Italy. Our visit brings men, mostly in their twenties, to meet the similarly aged men making the journey by sea to Europe.”

Fr Gilbert said: “We go as people of faith, moved by that faith, of putting ourselves alongside fellow human beings who are in the direst situation of need and insecurity, even if only for a very short time. We want to show solidarity with those whom fear, danger, increasing poverty and despair have led them to embark on dangerous journeys with no guaranteed outcome.”

Visit: http://focusonrefugees.org and CTBI http://ctbi.org.uk