LESBOS, Greece — In a go to aimed toward pricking Europe’s conscience, Pope Francis returned Sunday to Lesbos, the Greek island that has come to represent the continent’s migration crisis.
“We’re within the age of partitions and barbed wire,” the pope mentioned in a tent arrange on the waterfront Mavrovouni refugee camp, a cluster of white containers surrounded by barbed wire. “Allow us to cease this shipwreck of civilization!”
The 84-year-old pontiff traveled to the island as half of a visit to Greece and Cyprus that has targeted on drawing consideration to the plight of asylum seekers as European international locations take a tougher line to forestall a brand new migrant inflow.
“It’s distressing to listen to of proposals that widespread funds be used to construct partitions and barbed wire as an answer,” he mentioned in a speech to camp residents and visiting dignitaries. “Issues usually are not resolved, and coexistence improved by constructing partitions greater, however by becoming a member of forces to take care of others based on the concrete potentialities of every and in respect for the legislation.”
Since 2015, Lesbos has been one of the primary entry factors into the European Union for migrants and refugees fleeing battle and poverty within the Center East, Asia and Africa.
The numbers arriving on the island have receded considerably because the EU struck a take care of Turkey in 2016 to handle refugee flows, however migrants proceed attempting to succeed in Europe by boat throughout the Mediterranean, ceaselessly with deadly outcomes.
“The Mediterranean, which for millennia has introduced completely different peoples and distant lands collectively, is now changing into a grim cemetery with out tombstones,” Pope Francis mentioned. “This nice basin of water, the cradle of so many civilizations, now appears like a mirror of loss of life.”
His viewers included Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, European Fee Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi, as properly as dozens of camp residents primarily from Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Africa.
Pope Francis first visited Lesbos in 2016, serving to draw worldwide consideration to the island amid the crisis triggered by refugees fleeing the civil battle in Syria.
“At the moment, the scenario was a humanitarian emergency, with greater than one million new arrivals to Greece between 2015 and 2016,” mentioned Louise Donovan, a spokesperson for the U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees. “The scenario has drastically modified since then, and whereas it’s not an emergency, shared accountability, humanity and solidarity are wanted now greater than ever.”
Sunday’s papal go to “is a chance to focus and mirror on the widespread values of solidarity, of humanity and of respect for human life and dignity,” Donovan added.
Throughout an emotional assembly with migrants in Cyprus on Friday, the pope departed from a ready speech, insisting he had a accountability to inform the reality concerning the struggling of refugees, and evaluating their circumstances to Nazi and Soviet camps.
“We’re appalled once we learn tales of the focus camps of the final century, these of the Nazis or these of Stalin,” he said. “We are saying: ‘How may this probably have occurred?’ Brothers and sisters, it’s taking place at the moment, on close by coasts.”
Earlier this yr, Greek authorities and the European Fee inaugurated three new refugee facilities on the Greek islands of Samos, Kos and Leros. Although the EU-funded amenities are extensively thought of to be of the next normal than earlier camps, critics complain they’re distant and closely policed.
Amnesty Worldwide mentioned the brand new detention camps violate Athens’ commitments to offer worldwide safety to these in want and urged authorities to carry restrictions imposed on residents. Final week, the rights group accused Greek authorities of holding asylum seekers illegally on the Samos camp.
Some 2,200 are nonetheless dwelling within the Mavrovouni holding middle, which was constructed as a brief resolution after a fireplace destroyed a notoriously overcrowded camp at close by Moria.
A brand new middle to interchange Mavrovouni’s containers was imagined to be up and working earlier than final winter however has been delayed by native authorities contesting any everlasting building. North Aegean Regional Governor Kostas Moutzouris mentioned he hoped the pope’s enchantment wouldn’t result in extra migrants heading to the Greek islands.
“We welcome the pope’s second go to and hope that it’ll mark the speedy departure of all migrants from our islands,” he informed POLITICO after the pope’s departure. “We hope it is not going to result in the beginning of any migration actions to Lesbos. We gained’t permit any everlasting building on the island.”
Asylum seeker Kamille Mobaki, from Congo, was additionally hopeful the papal go to would assist get him off the island.
“I’m excited for his go to and I’m harassed,” Mobaki, 31, mentioned as he waited in a tent for the pope to reach. “Perhaps he’ll take us as much as Italy, perhaps this can be an answer for us.”
Mobaki has been caught on Lesbos for almost two years and has had asylum requests rejected twice.
Throughout his first go to to Lesbos, Pope Francis took a quantity of Syrians with him again to Rome, and in Cyprus final week the Vatican introduced 12 migrants who had crossed over from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island could be quickly relocated to Italy. Cypriot officers later mentioned a complete of 50 could be despatched.
Amongst them are two Cameroonian college students stranded for six months within the no-man’s-land dividing the island.
Greek media has been rife with rumors that the pope would take one other 300 folks with him from Lesbos, however no such plans have been introduced as he left the island after the two-hour go to.