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Pope Francis Calls for Evacuation of Refugees in Libya

Pope Francis (C) speaks to migrants during his visit to the island of Lampedusa, a key destination of tens of thousands of would-be immigrants from Africa, on July 8, 2013. Pope Francis called for an end to 'indifference' to the plight of refugees on Monday on a visit to an …
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images
THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Pope Francis has appealed for the evacuation of refugees detained in Libya as the rebel Libyan National Army launches airstrikes in Tripoli in an attempt to seize the capital.

“I invite you to join me in my prayer for the refugees who are in the detention centers in Libya, whose already very serious situation is being made even more dangerous by the ongoing conflict,” the pope told crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the Regina Caeli prayer at noon on Sunday.

“I urge that especially women, children and the sick can be evacuated as soon as possible through humanitarian corridors,” he added.

Some 140 refugees are expected to arrive in Rome from Libya on Monday. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), some 6,000 migrants are currently held in official detention centers.

On Saturday night, Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) carried out airstrikes on Tripoli, killing at least 11 people and wounding some 30 others, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

A spokesman for the health ministry of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Amin al-Hachemi, warned that “the death toll could increase in the coming hours.”

Saturday’s LNA attacks were the latest installment in an offensive to take the capital that began three weeks ago.

According to pro-GNA sources, the airstrike victims were civilians and not one of the strikes hit military targets.

The Libyan oil company (NOC) has pleaded for “the immediate cessation of hostilities,” saying that the armed conflict “puts our activities, production and the national economy at serious risk.”

Pope Francis called for an end to the bloody conflict in Libya during his Urbi et Orbi message delivered on Easter Day.

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