Justin Welby: Europe must tackle the misery forcing migrants to cross the Med

Migrants trying to reach Greece are rescued near the coast of the southeastern island of Rhodes, April 20, 2015.Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on all European and Mediterranean countries to take responsibility for the problem that drives thousands of migrants to risk their lives on the Mediterranean.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: "When people are drowning in the Mediterranean, the need, the misery that has driven them out of their own countries, is so extreme, so appalling, that Europe as a whole must rise up, and seek to do what is right."

He told the BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet: "It will be demanding, and that's why the burden must be spread across the continent, and not taken by just one country or one area."

He was speaking during his recent "visit of condolence" to Egypt following the murders of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. The migrant workers were kidnapped and beheaded by Islamic State in the kind of horror that gives some indication of why people are so desperate to cross the Mediterranean, even a terrible risk.

The Archbishop was reflecting on the hundreds who drowned after a boat just 20 metres long with as many as 800 migrants on board, many of them children, capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. An estimated 1200 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean that week alone and it is thought that total migrant deaths on water this year could exceed 30,000.

Open Doors reported that the record drownings follow the EU decision not to replace the Italian-run operation, Mare Nostrum, which saved 100,000 lives in 2014. Funding was withdrawn because it was believed to be aiding smugglers and increasing the migrant flow.

Collins Ima, a 23-year-old Nigerian who was one of the few to survive the capsize, told Open Doors that after working in Libya for 11 months without pay, he was so desperate to reach Europe that he didn't care if he lived or died.

"Either I was going to die, or I would survive," he said. "I thank God that I survived."

According to Open Doors, most illegal migrants are fleeing countries where Christians are in persecuted and where human rights abuses commonplace. The three main countries are Syria, Eritrea and Somalia.

In another recent tragedy, 12 Christians from Ghana and Nigerian were thrown overboard from a boat carrying migrants, reportedly because of their religion. Muslim migrants on the boat were arrested on suspicion of murder when they reached Italy.