French Synod focuses on migrants and refugees
|Max McClellan introducing his work in Greece
Two main speakers to this topic were Mr Max McClellan and Ms Doris Peschke. Max has worked with our Anglican Church in Greece, seconded by Us (formerly USPG) to assist Fr Malcolm Bradshaw in Athens in efforts to address the needs of refugees in that country. Doris is the General Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), an ecumenical agency of the Churches in Europe, and a body which provides much needed advice and support to our own diocese.
Max spoke of his work based in Athens during the time when hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees were transiting through Greece, having crossed the Aegean in flimsy inflatable boats, journeying onwards through the Balkans to countries such as Germany and Sweden. This situation has now changed dramatically with the closure of the Balkan route and the EU-Turkey "deal" to attempt to halt the flow of refugees from Turkey via this route. He spoke movingly of the complexities of the new reality in Greece, with about 53,000 refugees now stuck in Greece, with the EU promises of processing their claims and relocation largely ineffective. (only 615 out of the promised figure of 60,000 refugees have been relocated in the past 6 months). Many in Greece are now in what constitute detention centres, in deplorable conditions. Many asylum seekers don't know what is going on or what their options are; there is a lack of information available to them, and some are enticed by the smugglers offering ever more expensive and dangerous routes, now that the Balkan route is closed. The Anglican Church in Greece is providing hundreds of meals each week to those who are detained. Max also urged the synod not to refer to people as "illegal", as this is to take away their humanity. It may be that some do not fit the "official refugee profile", and they may have arrived by "illegal" means, but they are still human beings with claims that need to be examined, needs to be met and legal options presented clearly to them.
|Area Dean Canon Debbie Flach (left) introduces Doris Peschke and the CCME to the Synod
These two important presentations were an excellent stimulus for the delegates to the synod to share their own experiences, engagement and efforts on behalf of refugees and migrants. It was a rich exchange.
|Max McClellan and Doris Peschke - our expert speakers on refugees and migrants in Europe