Europe is failing the most vulnerable refugees by focusing its sympathy on the migrants crossing its borders rather than those left behind, Canon Andrew White has said. In a passionate statement, he added: “the wrong people are at the front of the queue.”
Until November last year Canon White, better known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, was Chaplain of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, the only Anglican Church in Iraq. He was eventually forced to leave at the behest of the Archbishop of Canterbury following numerous death threats from ISIS militants, and now works as the founding and current President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME).
In a scathing statement, Canon White has now slammed Europe for its response to the migrant crisis. He says it is wrong to focus resources on those already in Europe, when those in real need are the ones left behind.
“I am disappointed by Europe’s response to the refugee crisis,” he said “Not enough is being done to help the most vulnerable, particularly those who have fled religious persecution.
“My charity is providing food, shelter and medicine for hundreds of Iraqi refugee families who have fled ISIS and are now in Jordan. Some have walked across the desert to find safety, with little more than the clothes on their backs.
“When I see angry young men clashing with border police in Hungary and demanding to be let into other EU countries, I feel that the wrong people are at the front of the queue.
“Europe needs to distinguish between those who are looking for a better life and those who are running for their lives, otherwise we risk failing those who need our help the most.
“I would like to see more being done for the thousands of refugees, particularly Iraqi refugees, who are stranded in Jordan and other countries without any hope for the future.”
Last December in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Canon Andrew described the devastation in Iraq: “Things were bad in Baghdad, there were bombs and shootings and our people were being killed, so many of our people fled back to Nineveh, their traditional home,” he said. “It was safer, but then one day, ISIS – Islamic State. They came in and they hounded all of them out. They killed huge numbers, they chopped their children in half, they chopped their heads off, and they moved north and it was so terrible what happened.”
Canon White adds his voice to others urging Europe to look beyond the migrants on their doorstep to the wider picture. Last week the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I told the Vatican Insider that there was “something strange” about European politicians encouraging migrants into their countries to take jobs in the care industry, looking after the sick and elderly.
“I can confirm that it is not just displaced people who are fleeing,” he said. “Priests tell me that there are also people who aren’t too badly off financially, people who work at banks for example, who are leaving. People who don’t really need to leave. They feel that a window of opportunity has opened up and they fear this window will soon close so they take advantage of it. Meanwhile, those who are poorer aren’t even considering leaving. Everyone is losing out. Those who are most able are leaving and they are the only ones who could rebuild all that has been destroyed in recent years.”
Writing in the Spectator last month, Paul Collier pointed out the moral ambivalence of ushering into our countries to the “richer and more resourceful” refugees, rather than encouraging them to stay and rebuild their own countries.
“If you resist the easy option taken by the chattering classes who claim the moral high ground by insisting on open borders, you can see that European policy is the result of moral confusion,” he wrote.
“Let’s take the ‘duty of rescue’, which is official Europe’s rationale for fishing people out of the sea. People have a right to dream of a life in Europe, but Europe has a moral obligation to rescue, not to make dreams come true.
“What does rescue imply and to whom does it apply? Just being poor does not make someone eligible for being ‘rescued’ by a life in Europe. Mass poverty has to be tackled, but the only way it can be done is for poor countries to catch up with the rich ones. There are ways in which we can help that process, but encouraging the mass emigration of their most enterprising young people is not one of them.”