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Jesuits appeal to European Union ahead of informal summit at Salzburg

  • 25 October 2018

Jesuit Missions partner JCAM has been working on a research and advocacy project conducted in Germany, Kenya and Zambia investigating the relationship between tax justice and poverty.

Ahead of the EU Heads of state meeting in Salzburg this week, Jesuits in Africa and Europe express concern based on their research. Johannes Siebner SJ (Provincial of the German Jesuit Province), Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ (President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar – JCAM), Bernhard Bürgler SJ (Provincial of the Austrian Jesuit Province) were among many of the signatories of a joint letter titled “Flows of migrants, flows of money”, a petition for justice.

They protest against any narrative depicting migrants as a threat to Europe’s stability and prosperity, the treatment of migration from Africa as a criminal offence (“illegal migration”).

Rather than going tough on symptoms, they argue, there is a need to deal with the underlying root causes for those migratory movements, e.g. illicit financial flows, which prevent African countries from developing.

“Currently there is more money leaving Africa in illicit financial flows through aggressive tax evasion and money laundering, than is entering Africa in combined developmental aid and foreign direct investment. If Europe would support African governments in curbing those outflows, African states could secure much more funds for investing in infrastructure, education, and healthcare. This would, in the long run, keep Africans in Africa and ultimately curb illegal migration,”

says Fr Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM).

In the fight against illegal migration, Europe and Africa need more cooperation at various policy levels. The Jesuit Provincials of Germany and Austria, Frs Johannes Siebner and Bernhard Bürgler add:

“We perceive a lot of mutual benefit in developing and deepening relationships, for example, those based on a fairer trade system and exchange of technology versus one-way natural resources extraction or even balancing the demographic decline in Europe with demographic growth in Africa. Europe and Africa are in fact bound together as signatories to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Accord, to the forthcoming Global Compact on Migration and several other accords. All this has to be transferred into pragmatic and binding political and legal instruments for mutual benefit. We, Jesuits, are willing to help build bridges so that this will come about. These are topics worth discussing at the forthcoming informal EU Summit in Salzburg; not border fortification, abandonment of the ‘Sophia’ mission, the closing of harbours, deportations or  establishment of regional reception centres in North Africa.”

So far, no reply has been given by the Austrian government. On the 18th September, ahead of the informal EU-Summit in Salzburg, the Jesuits went public on their initiative with the following press release.

It is estimated that by 2035, 450 million young Africans will need jobs with only 110 million jobs being created. This month Pope Francis’s prayer intention was that “young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries”. Let us join the Pope in his prayers.