Do not diminish refugee protection

Statement by Church President Rekowski, migration expert for the Evangelical Church in Germany, on World Refugee Day

On the occasion of World Refugee Day on June 20, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has voiced an appeal not to further jeopardize refugee protection in Europe. Church President Manfred Rekowski, highest representative of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR) and Chairman of the EKD's Chamber for Migration and Integration, said: "There are hardly any voices left in the political debate that are calling for protection of those who have had to flee their homes.” He emphasized the need to keep in mind the perspective of the asylum-seekers: "Whoever speaks personally with refugees knows that these have left home for urgent reasons. They have fled war and violence, because their livelihoods have been destroyed, they have suffered political persecution or are seeking a better future that does not exist in their country but which they long for. We therefore need effective overall concepts to fight the root causes of refugee migration, for better refugee protection and for a modern immigration policy.”

President Rekowski directed most of his criticism to the refugee policy of the EU. Currently, the EU systematically outsources its protection responsibility and pays other states to reject or host those seeking protection. "It must be clear to all political leaders what it means to generally question the right to asylum and downgrade refugee protection: people are turned away at borders, sent from one country to another, or die at sea. This policy of outsourced responsibility is unacceptable," said Rekowski. It has a devastating impact, he added, on Europe as well. "If we accept what is happening beyond our borders in Libyan camps and that thousands of people are drowning in the Mediterranean year after year, that has consequences for us in Europe. Our own dignity, our own humanity, are in danger of decay. The importance of our own rights and freedoms is reflected by our willingness to share them with those seeking protection. From a Christian understanding human dignity and human rights are undividable."

Rekowski stated that in global terms, relatively few refugees come to Europe. Most people who have to flee their country seek refuge in neighboring states. Kenya and Jordan host the largest refugee camps in the world; in terms of percentages, the small state of Lebanon hosts more Syrian war refugees than any other country in the world. Regarding the root causes of refugee migration, Rekowski emphasized: "Many refugees flee from consequences that we have contributed to by our politics, our economy and our way of life. Be it arms exports, conflict resources or climate change, there are long chains of responsibility that connect us to the refugees." It is an illusion, stated, Rekowski, to believe that the worldwide exchange of goods and information in a globalized world can function one-sidedly; on the contrary, the world is characterized by constant interaction. "The fact that in 2017 the UN Refugee Agency counted 68,5 million[1] forcibly displaced people worldwide illustrates: Migration – whether forced or voluntary – is a political task whose management requires clear policies. This global problem will not be solved by symbolic politics or national unilateralism.   Needed are solidarity and human rights-oriented solutions."

He made it clear that the fact that not all persons seeking protection in Germany are entitled to asylum demands fair and individual asylum procedures. It is highly doubtful if this can be guaranteed in the so-called 'AnKER centers' currently planned by the German government. "It would be a catastrophe if the European asylum law no longer asks people their reasons for seeking asylum. If the only criterion is whether there is a so-called 'safe third country' to which a person can be deported, the Geneva Convention on Refugees would be called into question. A dangerous country cannot be relabeled as safe by decree. That applies, for example, to Libya as well as to Afghanistan."


Hannover, 20 June 2018

Pressestelle der EKD
Carsten Splitt