ROME — Pope Francis has expressed his sorrow over the recent shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which as many as 150 people lost their lives.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I have learned with sorrow the news of the tragic shipwreck, which took place in recent days in the waters of the Mediterranean, in which dozens of migrants, including women and children, lost their lives,” the pope told crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his Angelus message Sunday.
“I renew a heartfelt appeal for the international community to act promptly and decisively, to prevent such tragedies from happening again and to ensure the safety and dignity of all,” Francis said. “I invite you to pray with me for the victims and their families.”
“And also ask with my heart: ‘Father, why?’” the pontiff concluded.
The July 25 shipwreck occurred off the coast of Libya and was the most serious of 2019 as regards migrant sea deaths, which are down considerably relative to prior years. Although the exact number of deaths is still unknown, Italian media reports suggested the figure could be as high as 150.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), migrant sea deaths in the Mediterranean have dropped to the lowest levels in years.
According to the IOM, 686 migrants have either died or gone missing in the first seven months of 2019, compared to more than double that (1,517) during the same period of 2018.
Meanwhile, during the same period in 2017, deaths totaled 2,409; 3,172 in 2016; and 2,069 in 2015. Of those who have died thus far in 2019, 426 have died in the “Central Mediterranean Route,” which would be headed toward Italy.
In June, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini reminded Italians that his hardline approach to illegal immigration has saved hundreds of lives.
“More than 5,000 people died at sea in 2016,” Salvini noted. “This year we are at a tenth of that. We have gone from 76,858 landings in 2017 to 2,544 this year.”
“I want to continue positive trend,” he said.