ROME — Pope Francis has called for more effective aid to migrants trying to reach European shores, decrying the death toll of those attempting the perilous journey from north Africa to Italy.
“Another tragic shipwreck happened a few days ago in the Mediterranean – forty-one people lost their lives. I have prayed for them,” the pontiff told crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his Angelus message Sunday.
“And sadly and shamefully we must say that from the beginning of this year, almost two thousand men, women and children have already died trying to reach Europe,” he declared, calling the situation “an open wound on our humanity.”
As of Sunday, an astounding total of 96,791 immigrants have traveled across the Mediterranean Sea into Italy in 2023, more than double the number (47,117) who had arrived by this date in 2022, the United Nations revealed Monday.
According to figures provided by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), as of August 13, some 2,175 people were reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year.
“I encourage the political and diplomatic powers that are trying to heal this in a spirit of solidarity and fraternity, as well as the dedication of all those who are working to prevent shipwrecks and are aiding migrants,” the pope concluded in Sunday’s address.
What Francis failed to mention is that since the beginning of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, the only political measure that has succeeded in significantly lowering migrant sea deaths has been tightening border controls to discourage migrants from attempting the dangerous sea crossing.
In January 2019, the Italian daily La Verità reported that “the Salvini method works,” referring to plummeting migrant deaths following the border controls put in place by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Mr. Salvini had noted that open ports fuel human trafficking and encourage migrants to undertake perilous sea crossings.
“The proof is that after years of useless chatter the departures and arrivals have diminished, indeed almost ceased,” the newspaper declared. “And with falling departures and arrivals, the deaths have also declined. Yes, the statistics say that despite alarms raised by NGOs, as the number of refugees who board a vessel is reduced, deaths have also been reduced.”
In February of that same year, the head of Italy’s largest migrant reception center said that policies encouraging mass migration had done far more harm than good to Italy and to migrants.
Francesco Magnano, the director of the Reception Center for Asylum Seekers (CARA) of Mineo, said that left-wing “do-gooder” activists’ helped lead to thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean.
“From 2014 to 2017, our ports have been opened without limits and we have recorded 15,000 deaths at sea,” Magnano said, adding that closing the borders, as Mr. Salvini has done, would “force Germany and France to sit down at the negotiating table.”