The Spanish Church has launched a Vatican-endorsed app to give Africans accurate information on migrating to Europe.
A “hospitality guide” accessed via the RefAid app will tell migrants where to find Church-run “safe spaces” in transit countries.
Would-be migrants can also access information on a webpage regarding the dangers of the journey to Europe, legal issues they may encounter upon arrival and their rights at national borders.
French, Spanish or Italian speakers can find this information via a Caritas-sponsored RAEMH webpage (the Africa and Europe Network for Human Mobilisation).
The Hospitalidad Atlántica (Atlantic Hospitality) network involves 10 countries and 26 dioceses across Africa and Europe.
Fr Xabier Gómez OP who devised the scheme said the aim was to “save lives” and “contribute to the Common Good”.
“Our aim is to facilitate access to accurate information which can contribute to someone deciding freely whether to emigrate or not,” Fr Gómez, who is director of the migration office of the Spanish bishops’ conference, told the Archdiocese of Madrid’s Alfa y Omega.
Fr Gómez said: “We are making huge efforts to get all the facts on the app as soon as we receive them from the dioceses. When that task is complete, we want to spread the news via the secretariats of migrations and via special web pages.”
The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development plans to link up existing initiatives across countries and dioceses.
The project began after a meeting at the dicastery in January 2022 of African and Spanish bishops, many of whose dioceses lie along the 1,500km Atlantic migrant route from Africa to the Canary Islands.
Now, the network wants to foster development opportunities in migrants’ home countries.
“We want to contribute to local development to offer a future to those who would like to stay in their own country but find themselves obliged, ending up leaving due to a lack of opportunities,” said Fr Gómez.
This month, the Pope met bishops from the Canary Islands, a destination reached by 39,910 African migrants in 2023 according to Spanish government figures. The figures represented a 154.5 per cent increase from 2022.
Fernando Clavijo, the president of the Canary Islands who met the Pope with the bishops, said unaccompanied minors were a particular problem: “The Canary Islands has a population of 2.2 million and 4,521 unaccompanied minors. This is not sustainable.”
Yet he praised local solidarity with migrants, saying: “People have really thrown themselves into helping. Some [Canarians] jump into the sea to try and save anyone they see drowning.”