Pope Comforts Migrants At Lesbos Refugee Camp While Urging Humanitarian Aid

LESBOS, Greece (AP) — Pope Francis returned Sunday to the Greek island of Lesbos to supply consolation to migrants at a refugee camp and blast what he stated was the indifference and self-interest proven by Europe “that condemns to death those on the fringes.”

“Please, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!” Francis stated on the Mavrovouni camp, a cluster of white U.N. containers on the sting of the ocean lined by barbed wire fencing and draped with laundry hanging from strains.

Arriving on the camp, a maskless Francis took his time strolling alongside the barricades, patting kids and infants on the pinnacle and posing for selfies. He gave a “thumbs up” after he was serenaded by African ladies singing a music of welcome.

Pope Francis delivers a speech during a meeting with refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) on the island of Lesbos on Sunday.
Pope Francis delivers a speech throughout a gathering with refugees on the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) on the island of Lesbos on Sunday.

Anadolu Agency through Getty Images

It was Francis’ second journey to Lesbos in 5 years and he lamented that little had modified since 2016, when Lesbos was on the coronary heart of a large wave of migration to Europe and Francis introduced 12 Syrian Muslim refugees home with him aboard the papal airplane.

That concrete gesture of solidarity had raised hopes among the many present residents of the Lesbos camp, a lot of whom have given start to kids right here whereas ready for his or her asylum claims to be processed and noticed in Francis’ go to an opportunity at lastly getting out.

“It is a grace for us that the pope is coming here. We have a lot of problems here as refugees, a lot of suffering,” stated Enice Kiaku from Congo, whose 2-year-old son on her lap was born on Lesbos. But like little Guilain, she has no identification paperwork and is caught.

Refugees line up outside the Moria detention centre for migrants and refugees near Mytilene during the pope's visit.
Refugees line up outdoors the Moria detention centre for migrants and refugees near Mytilene in the course of the pope’s go to.

LOUISA GOULIAMAKI through Getty Images

“The arrival of the pope here makes us feel blessed because we hope the pope will take us with him because here we suffer,” Kiaku stated as she waited in a tent for the pope to arrive.

But no papal transfers have been introduced this time round, although in the course of the first leg of Francis’ journey in Cyprus, the Vatican introduced that 12 migrants who had crossed over from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north can be relocated to Italy within the coming weeks. Cypriot officers stated a complete of 50 would ultimately be despatched.

Francis’ five-day journey to Cyprus and Greece has been dominated by the migrant difficulty and Francis’ name for European international locations to cease constructing partitions, stoking fears and shutting out “those in greater need who knock at our door.”

“I ask every man and woman, all of us, to overcome the paralysis of fear, the indifference that kills, the cynical disregard that nonchalantly condemns to death those on the fringes!” he stated. “Let us stop ignoring reality, stop constantly shifting responsibility, stop passing off the issue of migration to others, as if it mattered to no one and was only a pointless burden to be shouldered by somebody else!”

Pope Francis meets migrants during his visit at the Karatepe refugee camp in Greece on Sunday. He called for better treatment of refugees as attitudes towards immigrants harden across Europe.
Pope Francis meets migrants throughout his go to on the Karatepe refugee camp in Greece on Sunday. He referred to as for higher remedy of refugees as attitudes in direction of immigrants harden throughout Europe.

through Associated Press

He denounced that the Mediterranean Sea, “the cradle of so many civilizations,” had develop into an unlimited cemetery the place smuggling boats full of determined individuals sink. “Let us not let our sea (mare nostrum) be transformed into a desolate sea of death (mare mortuum),” he stated.

Sitting earlier than him in a tent on the water’s edge was Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, EU Commission Vice Presidet Margaritis Schinas and would-be refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Congo, amongst different international locations.

Addressing the pope, Sakellaropoulou strongly defended Greece’s response to the wants of migrants and thanked Francis for displaying his assist along with his presence.

“It is the strong message of hope and responsibility that is conveyed from Lesbos to the international community,” she stated.

The camp, the place tents have been solely not too long ago changed with containers, is definitely a brief holding middle pending the development on the island of a “closed controlled facility,” basically a detention camp. These new camps, that are funded by the European Union, are already working on three different Greek islands, Samos, Leros and Kos.

Pope Francis speaks with migrants during his visit Sunday. He blasted what he called indifference and self-interest shown by Europe "that condemns to death those on the fringes."
Pope Francis speaks with migrants throughout his go to Sunday. He blasted what he referred to as indifference and self-interest proven by Europe “that condemns to death those on the fringes.”

through Associated Press

Francis listened intently as one of many camp’s residents, Christian Tango Mukaya, a Congolese father of three, thanked him for his present of solidarity and enchantment to Europe to let refugees in. Mukaya misplaced observe of his spouse and their third little one of their journey and is hoping his visibility with the pope may reunite them.

“We always have this hope that one day we may all be together again. That the family can be together again,” he informed The Associated Press on the eve of Francis’ arrival.

“We hope that the pope coming can bring change. Change,” he stated. “Regarding our condition, we would like a better life. We plead with the pope to help us, to speak on our behalf to Europe, to help us.”

Francis’ go to to Lesbos was the spotlight of his five-day journey, recalling his 2016 go to with the Orthodox management when he wept on the plight of asylum-seekers packed right into a camp that ultimately burned down final 12 months.

More than 1 million individuals, many fleeing warfare in Iraq and Syria, crossed from Turkey into Greece throughout 2015 and 2016, with Lesbos the busiest Greek crossing level. The circulate could have ebbed in Lesbos, however it hasn’t stopped and anti-migrant sentiment in Greece and past has solely hardened within the ensuing years, with the newest flashpoint on the EU’s Polish border with Belarus.

A child looks on at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene during the pope's visit on Sunday.
A baby seems to be on on the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene in the course of the pope’s go to on Sunday.

ANDREAS SOLARO through Getty Images

Greece has not too long ago constructed a metal wall alongside a piece of the Greek-Turkish land border and is intercepting boats transporting migrants from the Turkish aspect. It denies allegations that it’s finishing up summary deportations of migrants reaching Greek territory however human rights teams say quite a few such pushbacks have occurred.

Ahead of Sunday’s cease by Francis, human rights teams have stepped up their criticism of Greece’s remedy of migrants and of more durable migration insurance policies among the many EU’s 27 members.

Amnesty International stated new EU-funded detention camps on Greek islands have been in violation of Athens’ commitments to supply worldwide safety to these in want.

“Under international and EU law, asylum-seekers should only be detained as a matter of last resort,” Amnesty stated. “As we feared, Greek authorities are hiding behind the legally ambiguous concept of so-called closed-controlled centers to illegally deprive asylum-seekers of their liberty.”

The rights group requested Greece “to urgently withdraw this decision and lift the restrictions.”

Greek Migration Affairs Minister Notis Mitarachi defended Greece’s response in a press release Sunday, saying it had “selflessly” responded to the disaster in 2015 and was persevering with to supply asylum-seekers with safety. But it demanded the EU do extra to assist front-line international locations like Greece that bear a disproportionate burden whereas “those who exploit fellow human beings are rewarded.”

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