Pope Francis Admonishes Europe for ‘Hostility’ Toward Migrants

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ROME — Pope Francis lamented the often “hostile” reception given to migrants in Europe and elsewhere in a video message sent Saturday to prepare his upcoming visit to Cyprus and Greece.

The pope also warned of other crises, declaring that “the climate crisis is looming large” but spent more time calling for “open ports” and denouncing policies that he believes lead to migrant deaths at sea.

“The sea, which embraces many peoples, with its open ports reminds us that the sources of living together lie in mutual acceptance,” the pontiff stated in his message. “Even now I feel welcomed by your affection and I thank those who have been preparing my visit for some time.”

“But I am also thinking of those who, in recent years and still today, have been fleeing from war and poverty, landing on the shores of the continent and elsewhere, and encountering not hospitality but hostility and even exploitation. They are our brothers and sisters,” he chided.

“How many have lost their lives at sea!” he continued. “Today our sea, the Mediterranean, is a great cemetery.”

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea have, indeed, increased in 2021, having already surpassed the total 2020 number, with 1,559 dead or missing so far in 2021 and 1,449 in all of 2020.

This number reflects the growing number of migrants who attempt the dangerous crossing from Africa to Italy now that the latter has opened its ports to migration. So far this year, 134,120 have reached the shores of Europe, while in all of 2020, the number was below 100,000 (99,475).

Pope Francis has indicated his intention to again bring migrants back to Rome on the papal plane with him as he did after his trip to the Greek island of Lesbos (Lesvos) in 2016, a journey he referenced in his address Saturday.

“As a pilgrim to the wellsprings of humanity, I will go to Lesvos again, convinced that the sources of common life will only flourish again in fraternity and integration: together,” he said. “There is no other way and with this vision I go to you.”

Even today, “Europe cannot ignore the Mediterranean, the sea which has seen the spread of the Gospel and the development of great civilisations,” Francis said. “The mare nostrum, which connects so many lands, invites us to sail together, not to be divided by going our separate ways, especially at a time when the fight against the pandemic still requires effort, and the climate crisis is looming large.”

Last May, the island nation of Cyprus declared a “state of emergency” due to the flood of migrants overwhelming its reception centers and appealed for help from the European Union.

“Due to this situation and overcrowding in reception centers, I was forced to make a written representation to the European Commission,” said Interior Minister Nicos Nouris.

Nouris informed the commission that Cyprus was “entering a state of emergency as far as migration is concerned, and there is no further capacity to host additional migrants.”

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