Pope comforts migrants in 2nd journey to Greek island, condemns Europe’s response to disaster

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Pope Francis returned on Sunday to the Greek island of Lesbos to supply consolation to migrants at a refugee camp and blast what he mentioned was Europe’s indifference and self-interest “that condemns to dying these on the fringes.”

“Please, allow us to cease this shipwreck of civilization!” Francis mentioned on the Mavrovouni camp, a cluster of white United Nations containers on the sting of the ocean lined by barbed wire fencing and draped with laundry drying within the air.

A maskless Francis took his time strolling via the camp on Sunday, patting youngsters and infants on the top and posing for selfies. He gave a thumbs up after he was serenaded by African girls singing a music of welcome.

It was Francis’s second journey to Lesbos in 5 years. He lamented that little had modified since 2016, when Lesbos was on the coronary heart of an enormous wave of migration to Europe and when the pontiff introduced 12 Syrian Muslim refugees from the island again residence with him aboard the papal aircraft.

That concrete gesture of solidarity had raised hopes amongst present residents of the Lesbos camp, a few of whom have given start to youngsters right here whereas ready for his or her asylum claims to be processed. However there have been no papal airlifts on Sunday, and Francis returns to the Vatican on Monday.

Migrants collect exterior their container homes as police safe the realm earlier than the Pope’s go to on the Karatepe refugee camp on Sunday. (Alessandra Tarantino/The Related Press)

“It’s a grace for us that the Pope is coming right here. We now have a number of issues right here as refugees, a number of struggling,” mentioned Enice Kiaku from Congo, whose two-year-old son on her lap was born on Lesbos. However like little Guilain, she has no id paperwork and is caught.

“The arrival of the Pope right here makes us really feel blessed, as a result of we hope the Pope will take us with him as a result of right here we endure,” Kiaku mentioned as she waited in a tent for the Pope to reach.

‘Allow us to cease ignoring actuality’

Francis’s five-day journey to Cyprus and Greece has been dominated by the subject of migration and his name for European international locations to indicate better solidarity with these in want. He insisted on Sunday that Europe should cease constructing partitions, stoking fears and shutting out “these in better want who knock at our door.”

Throughout the first leg of Francis’s 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, who say the European Union island nation cannot settle for extra migrants, mentioned a complete of fifty would finally be despatched.

Pope Francis hugs a migrant throughout his go to on the Karatepe camp on Lesbos. The Greek island was on the coronary heart of an enormous wave of migration into Europe six years in the past. (Alessandra Tarantino/The Related Press)

“I ask each man and girl, all of us, to beat the paralysis of concern, the indifference that kills, the cynical disregard that nonchalantly condemns to dying these on the fringes,” Francis mentioned on Sunday. “Allow us to cease ignoring actuality, cease continually shifting duty, cease passing off the problem of migration to others, as if it mattered to nobody and was solely a pointless burden to be shouldered by someone else.”

He denounced the truth that the Mediterranean Sea, “the cradle of so many civilizations,” had turn into an unlimited cemetery the place smuggling boats full of determined individuals too typically sink.

“Allow us to not let our sea (mare nostrum) be remodeled right into a desolate sea of dying (mare mortuum),” he mentioned.

Greece defends response

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

Addressing Francis, Sakellaropoulou strongly defended Greece’s response to the wants of migrants and thanked the pontiff for exhibiting his assist together with his presence.

“It’s the robust message of hope and duty that’s conveyed from Lesbos to the worldwide neighborhood,” she mentioned.

Pope Francis shakes arms with Greece’s President Katerina Sakellaropoulou throughout a ceremony on the Karatepe refugee camp on Sunday. (Louisa Gouliamaki/The Related Press)

The camp, the place tents have been solely lately changed with containers, is definitely a short lived holding centre that changed one other camp that burned down final 12 months. It was constructed pending the development on the island of a “closed managed facility,” basically a detention camp.

These new camps, that are funded by the EU however have run afoul of human rights organizations, are already working on three different Greek islands: Samos, Leros and Kos.

A couple of million individuals, many fleeing conflict in Iraq and Syria, crossed from Turkey into Greece throughout 2015 and 2016, with Lesbos the busiest Greek crossing level. The move might have ebbed in Lesbos, but it surely hasn’t stopped, and anti-migrant sentiment in Greece and past has solely hardened within the ensuing years — with the most recent flashpoint on the EU’s Polish border with Belarus.

Greece lately 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 abstract deportations of migrants reaching Greek territory, however human rights teams say quite a few such pushbacks have occurred.

Amnesty Worldwide mentioned the brand new EU-funded detention camps on Greek islands have been in violation of Athens’ commitments to supply worldwide safety to these in want. “Below worldwide and EU legislation, asylum-seekers ought to solely be detained as a matter of final resort,” Amnesty mentioned.

Greek Migration Affairs Minister Notis Mitarachi defended Greece’s response on Sunday, saying it had “selflessly” responded to the disaster in 2015 and was persevering with to supply asylum-seekers with safety. He demanded the EU do extra to assist front-line international locations like Greece.

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