Cardinal: Britons crying out for more generous response to migrants

A woman sits among sleeping migrants near the Keleti railway station in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 3. More than 2,000 migrants, many of them refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, camped in front of the Keleti Railway Terminus, closed to them by authorities who said European Union rules bar travel by those without valid documents. (CNS photo/Bernadett Szabo, Reuters)
A woman sits among sleeping migrants near the Keleti railway station in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 3. More than 2,000 migrants, many of them refugees from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, camped in front of the Keleti Railway Terminus, closed to them by authorities who said European Union rules bar travel by those without valid documents. (CNS photo/Bernadett Szabo, Reuters)

LONDON (CNS) — Images of drowned refugees are causing the British people to cry out for a more generous response to the migrant crisis engulfing Europe, said an English cardinal.

Speaking to ITV News Sept. 2, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said shocking images of bodies washed up on beaches in the Mediterranean — including one of a drowned Syrian boy lying face down — are revealing “the human face of this suffering.”

A member of the Turkish military carries a young migrant Sept. 2, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, in the coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey. A Turkish media report says at least 11 migrants have died and five others are missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized. (CNS photo/Reuters)
A member of the Turkish military carries a young migrant Sept. 2, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, in the coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey. A Turkish media report says at least 11 migrants have died and five others are missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized. (CNS photo/Reuters)

The British government has refused to accept migrants fleeing wars and dire poverty in the Middle East and Africa at a time when hundreds of thousands of them are risking their lives to enter Western Europe. But following an outcry, Prime Minister David Cameron said Sept. 4 that Britain would accept refugees from camps in Syria, but not from among those who had already fled into Europe. He did not specify how many refugees would be admitted.

Cardinal Nichols said images of some of the people who have died trying to reach the European Union are upsetting the British people. He said the British people were not “mean-spirited” and that, on the whole, he believed they were generous.

“The spirit of people in this country will respond,” said Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“The letters I get and the voices I am hearing are all saying this is a disgrace that we were letting people die and seeing dead bodies on the beaches when, together, Europe is such a wealthy place that we should be able to fashion a short-term response as well as long-term tackling of these really intricate problems,” he said.

“If we take 10,000, it’s a fraction of the whole problem,” he continued. “What is coming through, screaming through at this moment, is the human tragedy of this moment to which we can be more generous.”

“It’s no longer an abstract problem of people who are on the scrounge, it’s not,” the cardinal added. “It’s people who are desperate for the sake of their families, their elderly, their youngsters, their children — and the more we see that I think the more the opportunity for a political response that’s a bit more generous is growing.”