A string of high-profile migrant deaths in the last week should draw our attention to the thousands more that go unreported, and encourage us to welcome migrants, while also working to address the challenges that lead them to leave their homes, said the head of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) this week.
“Thousands of migrants die each year trying to attain what we Americans sometimes take for granted,” said Sean Callahan, president and CEO of CRS.
In a July 3 statement, he encouraged Americans to take time on Independence Day to “reflect on what it means to be living in a country that was founded upon the notion that every human being has the right to pursue happiness.”
The Catholic Relief Services statement pointed to several recent migrant deaths that have garnered the attention of the international media.
Last week, a photo of two migrants who had drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande went viral. Óscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria died June 23 during their attempt to enter the U.S.
Earlier this week, an unidentified man was found dead after stowing away in the landing-gear compartment of a nine-hour flight from Kenya to London.
And at least 44 people were killed and over 100 more injured early Wednesday during an airstrike on a migrant detention center in Libya.
The Tripoli-based government has accused General Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army of carrying out the attack, while the General’s forces are blaming the government.
But for each of these deaths, Catholic Relief Services noted, there are thousands more that fail to attract the attention of the media.
A report last week from the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) found that more than 32,000 migrants have been reported dead during their journey to a new country over the last five years.
Nearly one migrant child per day is reported dead or missing, although the report warned that many more likely go untracked.
In his statement, Callahan stressed that the deaths of migrants worldwide should prompt Americans to take action.
“Yearning only to be free of violence or poverty, migrants are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea or in the Rio Grande,” he said. “Or they’re dying of thirst in the brutal heat of the Sahara Desert. They are suffocating in the landing gear of jet planes, and from rocket fire and neglect in detention centers.”
Catholic Relief Services works in more than 100 countries to provide humanitarian assistance, emergency relief, and development. In many countries, their programming helps address the underlying challenges that lead people to emigrate.
Callahan invited Americans to remember in a special way those who are seeking freedom on Independence Day this year.
“Let’s commit to treating them with dignity, and to improving the conditions in their homelands,” he said.