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Pope chides Europe, comforts migrants on return to Lesbos

Pope chides Europe, comforts migrants on return to Lesbos

LESBOS, Greece — 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 Europe’s indifference and self-interest “that condemns to loss of life these on the fringes.”

“Please, allow us to cease 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 drying within the air.

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

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

That concrete gesture of solidarity had raised hopes amongst present residents of the Lesbos camp, a few of whom have given start to kids 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.

“It’s a grace for us that the pope is coming right here. We have now a number of issues right here as refugees, a number of struggling,” stated Enice Kiaku from Congo, whose 2-year-old son on her lap was born on Lesbos. However like little Guilain, she has no identification 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 undergo,” Kiaku stated as she waited in a tent for the pope to reach.

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

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, who say the European Union island nation can’t settle for extra migrants, stated a complete of fifty would ultimately be despatched.

“I ask each man and lady, all of us, to beat the paralysis of worry, the indifference that kills, the cynical disregard that nonchalantly condemns to loss of life these on the fringes!” Francis stated Sunday. “Allow us to cease ignoring actuality, cease continually shifting accountability, cease passing off the difficulty of migration to others, as if it mattered to nobody and was solely a pointless burden to be shouldered by any individual else!”

He denounced that the Mediterranean Sea, “the cradle of so many civilizations,” had grow to be an enormous cemetery the place smuggling boats filled with determined folks too usually sink.

“Allow us to not let our sea (mare nostrum) be reworked right into a desolate sea of loss of life (mare mortuum),” he stated.

Sitting earlier than him in a tent on the water’s edge was Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, EU Fee 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 exhibiting his help along with his presence.

“It’s the robust message of hope and accountability that’s conveyed from Lesbos to the worldwide group,” she stated.

The camp, the place tents have been solely not too long ago changed with containers, is definitely a short lived holding middle 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,” primarily 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.

Francis listened intently as one camp resident, Christian Tango Mukaya, a Congolese father of three, thanked him for his present of solidarity and his attraction to Europe to let refugees in. Mukaya misplaced monitor of his spouse and their third baby of their journey and is hoping his visibility with the pope would possibly reunite them.

“We all the time have this hope that in the future we might all be collectively once more,” he informed The Related Press on the eve of Francis’ arrival.

“We hope that the pope coming can deliver change,” he stated. “We wish a greater life. We plead with the pope to assist us, to talk on our behalf to Europe.”

Greater than 1 million folks, many fleeing battle in Iraq and Syria, crossed from Turkey into Greece throughout 2015 and 2016, with Lesbos the busiest Greek crossing level. The stream might 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 most recent flashpoint on the EU’s Polish border with Belarus.

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

Amnesty Worldwide stated 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.

“Beneath worldwide and EU regulation, asylum-seekers ought to solely be detained as a matter of final resort,” Amnesty stated. “As we feared, Greek authorities are hiding behind the legally ambiguous idea of so-called closed-controlled facilities to illegally deprive asylum-seekers of their liberty.”

The rights group requested Greece “to urgently withdraw this determination and carry the restrictions.”

Greek Migration Affairs Minister Notis Mitarachi defended Greece’s response 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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