Pope Francis: We Cannot Hide from Migrants ‘Behind Walls and Barbed Wires’

In this handout image provided by Greek Prime Minister's Office, Pope Francis meets migran
Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister's Office via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis railed against the “dehumanization” of migrants Monday, calling for a shared responsibility among European nations in welcoming migrants.

In the face of increasing movements of migration, “we cannot be indifferent or hide behind walls and barbed wires under the pretext of defending security or a style of life,” the pope told members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See in Monday’s annual address.

“I thank all those individuals and governments working to ensure that migrants are welcomed and protected,” the pontiff stated, “and to support their human promotion and integration in the countries that have received them.”

“I am aware of the difficulties that some states encounter in the face of a large influx of people,” he said. “No one can be asked to do what is impossible for them, yet there is a clear difference between accepting, albeit in a limited way, and rejecting completely.”

As he has done on other occasions, Francis insisted that everyone is responsible for welcoming migrants and no country should wash its hands from this situation.

“There is a need to overcome indifference and to reject the idea that migrants are a problem for others,” he declared.

“The results of this approach are evident in the dehumanization of those migrants concentrated in hotspots where they end up as easy prey to organized crime and human traffickers, or engage in desperate attempts to escape that at times end in death,” he said.

“Sadly, we must also note that migrants are themselves often turned into a weapon of political blackmail, becoming a sort of ‘bargaining chip’ that deprives them of their dignity,” he added.

The pope took advantage of the occasion to thank the Italian authorities who permitted him to bring back a number of migrants from Cyprus and Greece following his visit there in early December, asserting that it was “a simple yet meaningful gesture.”

In his address, Francis rejected the idea that individual nations should draft unilateral policies concerning the reception of migrants, insisting on a coordinated, multilateral approach.

“I consider it essential that the European Union arrive at internal cohesion in handling migration movements, just as it did in dealing with the effects of the pandemic,” he said. “There is a need to adopt a coherent and comprehensive system for coordinating policies on migration and asylum, with a view to sharing responsibility for the reception of migrants, the review of requests for asylum, and the redistribution and integration of those who can be accepted.”

“The capacity to negotiate and discover shared solutions is one of the strong points of the European Union; it represents a sound model for a farsighted approach to the global challenges before us,” he argued.

“The issue of migration, together with the pandemic and climate change, has clearly demonstrated that we cannot be saved alone and by ourselves: the great challenges of our time are all global,” he declared. “It is thus troubling that, alongside the greater interconnection of problems, we are seeing a growing fragmentation of solutions.”

“What is needed instead is a recovery of our sense of shared identity as a single human family,” he contended. “The alternative can only be growing isolation, marked by a reciprocal rejection and refusal that further endangers multilateralism, the diplomatic style that has characterized international relations from the end of the Second World War to the present time.”


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