Pope appeases immigrants on Lesbos

Lesbos, Greece (AP)-Pope Francis returned to Lesbos, Greece on Sunday to provide comfort to immigrants in refugee camps, and criticized Europe’s indifference and selfishness, and “punished those on the margins to death.”

“Please, let us stop this civilized shipwreck!” Francis said. At the Mavrovoni camp, a pile of white United Nations containers are located by the sea, lined with barbed wire and clothes hung on ropes.

After arriving at the camp, Francis, who was not wearing a mask, walked slowly along the roadblock, patted the heads of children and babies, and took a selfie pose. After African women sang the welcome song, he gave a thumbs up.

This is the second time Francis has visited Lesbos in five years. He lamented that there has been little change since 2016, when Lesbos was at the center of a large-scale immigration wave in Europe. Francis brought 12 Syrian Muslim refugees to the island. Go home on the Pope’s special plane.

This concrete gesture of solidarity brings hope to the current residents of Lesbos refugee camp, many of whom gave birth to children here while waiting for asylum applications to be processed, and saw their final departure during Francis’ visit chance.

“The Pope’s coming here is a kind of grace for us. As refugees, we have a lot of problems here, a lot of suffering,” said Enice Kiaku from Congo, whose 2-year-old son was born on Lesbos. . But like Xiao Guilan, she did not have an identity document and was stuck.

“The arrival of the Pope makes us very happy, because we hope that the Pope can take us there, because we are suffering here,” Jiajiu said, waiting for the arrival of the Pope in the tent.

However, no such Pope’s transfer was announced this time, although during the first leg of Francis’s trip to Cyprus, the Vatican announced that 12 migrants who had crossed the border from the separated Turkish Cypriot north would move to Italy in the coming weeks. Cypriot officials stated that a total of 50 aircraft will eventually be sent.

Francis’s five-day visit to Cyprus and Greece was mainly about immigration issues and Francis’s call on European countries to stop building walls, inciting fear and rejecting “those who are more in need who knock on our door”.

“I ask every man and woman, all of us, to overcome the paralysis of fear, the indifference of killing people, and the cynical indifference of condemning marginalized people to death indifferently!” he said. “Let us stop ignoring reality, stop constantly shirking responsibilities, stop passing the immigration problem on to others, as if it has nothing to do with anyone, but a meaningless burden borne by others!”

He condemned that the “cradle of many civilizations” the Mediterranean had become a huge cemetery, where smuggling ships crowded with desperate people sank. “Let us not let our ocean (mare nostrum) become a desolate sea of ​​death (mare mortuum),” he said.

Sitting in a waterside tent in front of him are Greek President Katerina Sacraropoulou, European Commission Vice President Margaritas Cinas, and refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Congo.

In his address to the Pope, Sakellaropoulou firmly defended Greece’s response to immigration needs and thanked Francis for his support for his attendance.

“This is a strong message of hope and responsibility from Lesbos to the international community,” she said.

The camp has only recently replaced tents with containers. It is actually a temporary shelter, waiting for the construction of a “closed control facility” on the island, which is essentially a detention camp. These new camps funded by the European Union are already in operation on the other three Greek islands of Samos, Leros and Kos.

Francis listened intently to the speech of Christian Tango Mukaya (Christian Tango Mukaya), a resident of the refugee camp and father of three, thanking him for his solidarity and calling on Europe to let refugees in. Mukaya lost his wife and their third child during the journey, hoping that his popularity in front of the Pope will allow them to reunite.

“We always hope that one day we can get together again. The family can get together again,” he told the Associated Press on the eve of Francis’s arrival.

“We hope that the arrival of the Pope will bring about change. Change,” he said. “In our case, we want a better life. We beg the Pope to help us, speak to Europe on our behalf, and help us.”

Francis’ visit to Lesbos was the highlight of his five-day trip. He recalled his visit with Orthodox leaders in 2016, when he cried over the plight of asylum seekers in the refugee camp that was finally burnt down last year.

In 2015 and 2016, more than 1 million people crossed the border from Turkey into Greece. Many of them fled the war in Iraq and Syria. Lesbos was the busiest crossing point in Greece. The wave of immigration may have subsided on Lesbos, but it has not stopped. Anti-immigration sentiment in Greece and other regions will only become stronger in the following years. The latest flashpoint is the Polish border between the EU and Belarus.

Greece recently built a steel wall along a section of the Greek-Turkish land border and intercepted ships carrying migrants from the Turkish side. It denies allegations of summary deportation of immigrants who have arrived in Greek territory, but human rights groups say that such obstructions have occurred multiple times.

Before Francis stopped on Sunday, human rights groups had intensified criticism of Greece’s treatment of immigrants and the tougher immigration policies of the 27 EU member states.

Amnesty International stated that the new EU-funded detention camps on the Greek islands violated Athens’ commitment to provide international protection to those in need.

“According to international law and EU law, asylum seekers should only be detained as a last resort,” Amnesty International said. “As we fear, the Greek authorities hide behind the legal vague concept of the so-called closed control center in order to illegally deprive asylum seekers of their freedom.”

Human rights organizations demand that Greece “emergencyly withdraw this decision and lift restrictions.”

Greek Immigration Minister Notis Mitarachi defended Greece’s response in a statement on Sunday, saying it “selflessly” responded to the 2015 crisis and will continue to provide protection for asylum seekers. But it asked the European Union to do more to help the overburdened front-line countries like Greece, and “people who exploited their compatriots were rewarded.”


Gatopoulos is from Athens, Greece.


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