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Migrants: the Pope calls on Lesbos to put an end to a “shipwreck of civilization” | The migrant crisis


[La Méditerranée] is turning into a cold cemetery with no tombstones […] I beg you, let’s stop this sinking of civilization!

A quote from Pope Francis

The Sovereign Pontiff made this statement on the second day of his visit to Greece, marked by a whirlwind visit to Lesvos.

In the Mavrovouni camp, which still houses nearly 2,200 asylum seekers, the Pope was warmly welcomed by a crowd of migrants who had gathered between the containers and the tents of the camp. The Holy Father greeted and blessed the families present at length, including many children. Welcome!, We love you, you could hear.

In a tent, he then listened to the joyful songs of a choir of exiles, before being saddened that the Mediterranean, cradle of so many civilizations that is now like a mirror of death, reminding the crude images of the little bodies lying on the beaches.

Do not allow the mare nostrum turns into a sorry mare mortuum, may this meeting place become the theater of conflicts! Don’t let this sea of ​​memories become the sea of ​​oblivion, he urged in front of the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas and the Greek Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi.

Prayer with migrants

Forty asylum seekers, mostly Catholics from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then attended the prayer to the Virgin said by the Pope.

Previously, Christian Tango, a 31-year-old Congolese, addressed the Pope, thanking him for his spirit of humanity he manifesto to all his migrant and refugee children, before asking him his prayers to have a safe place in Europe.

We are humans, we refugees. We must be treated like humans and not like prisoners, told theAFP the Congolese Orphée Madouda, who attended the prayer.

Nearly 900 police officers have been deployed to the Greek island. Banners here and there had flourished in the city of Mytilene and around the camp to wish the welcome to Pope Francis or denounce the alleged refoulements of migrants to Turkey.

In the open air, the tent camp was hastily erected a year ago, on a former army firing range on the Aegean island, when the structure of Moria, then the largest in Europe, was destroyed by flames.

Refugees in a camp on the island of Lesbos.

Refugees in the detention center for migrants and refugees in Moria, near Mytilene, before the meeting with the Pope on the island of Lesbos.

Photo: Getty Images / ANDREAS SOLARO

When the island of Lesbos was the main gateway for tens of thousands of migrants to Europe, François had visited Moria in April 2016 and symbolically launched: We are all migrants.

Leitmotif of his pontificate, the cause of refugees once again remains the cornerstone of the Pope’s 35th trip.

Pope’s reproaches

Jorge Bergoglio, himself from a family of Italian migrants settled in Argentina, never ceases to advocate the reception of thousands of brothers and sisters, without distinguishing between religion or the status of refugee or economic exile.

The 84-year-old Argentine pontiff regretted on Saturday that Europe persists in procrastinating in the face of migrant arrivals sometimes blocked and torn by nationalist egoisms, instead of being a motor of solidarity.

He was speaking in Athens, where it was the first visit of a pope in 20 years.

The pope found in Lesbos a different situation from 2016, but around forty NGOs have nonetheless urged Francis to intervene to put an end to the alleged refoulements of exiles to Turkey, which Athens denies.

In a letter to the Pope, they also denounced the establishment in Greece of camps closed and controlled access, partly financed by European funds.

Surrounded by barbed wire and closed by X-ray portals, three of these camps have already opened on the islands of Samos, Leros and Kos, those of Lesbos and Chios being planned for next year.

The pontiff’s visit to Lesbos, shorter than in 2016, will be followed on Sunday in Athens by a mass in front of some 2,500 faithful in a huge concert hall.

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