Pope Francis calls neglect of migrants the ‘shipwreck of civilisation’ as he returns to camp on Lesbos five years on from his first visit
- Pope Francis visited Greek Island of Lesbos, where 2,200 asylum seekers reside
- The pope has described the neglect of migrants as the ‘shipwreck of civilisation’
- He criticised inaction by Europe, saying nations were ‘torn by nationalist egoism’
- He added the Mediterranean ‘is becoming a grim cemetery without tombstones’
Pope Francis has called the neglect of migrants the ‘shipwreck of civilisation’ as he returned to the beseiged island of Lesbos today.
The pope previously visited Lesbos in 2016 and has long championed the cause of migrants.
His visit comes a day after he delivered a stinging rebuke to the nations of Europe, which he said were ‘torn by nationalist egoism’.
‘In Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them,’ the pope said as he spent some two hours at Lesbos’ Mavrovouni camp where nearly 2,200 asylum seekers live.
At the camp, he met dozens of child asylum seekers and relatives standing behind metal barriers and stopped to embrace a boy called Mustafa.
Pope Francis delivers a speech during a meeting with refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos today
Thousands of migrants are trapped in desperate circumstances as authorities try to process them on Lesbos
Pope Francis warned that the Mediterranean ‘is becoming a grim cemetery without tombstones’ and that ‘after all this time, we see that little in the world has changed with regard to the issue of migration’
The camp is one of the biggest migration flashpoints in Europe, filled with refugees trying to flee to western Europe
‘I am trying to help you,’ Francis told one group through his interpreter. People later gathered in a tent to sing songs and psalms to the pontiff.
Pope Francis warned that the Mediterranean ‘is becoming a grim cemetery without tombstones’ and that ‘after all this time, we see that little in the world has changed with regard to the issue of migration’.
He said the root causes ‘should be confronted – not the poor people who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda’.
The European Union has been locked in a dispute with Belarus over an influx of migrants travelling through the former Soviet state seeking to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in recent months.
Britain and France have also traded barbs over the increasing number of migrants making the deadly Channel crossing to reach the UK in the wake of the November 24 mass drowning which claimed 27 lives.
‘His visit is a blessing,’ said Rosette Leo, a Congolese asylum seeker at the site.
Pope Francis blesses a baby child at the Mytilene camp on Lesbos
The pope chatted with a child during his reception at Lesbos
He spent much of his visit speaking directly to youngsters living in the camp, as he urged European countries to step up to the migration crisis
The pope made a winning gesture during his highly anticipated reception
He met refugees of all ages during his visit, which was the second time he had inspected camp conditions in Lesbos
However, Menal Albilal, a Syrian mother with a two-month-old baby whose asylum claim was rejected after two years on the island, said refugees ‘want more than words, we need help.’
‘The conditions here are not good for a baby,’ she added.
‘The Greek government should think about us, we’ve been here for two years without work or education,’ said François Woumfo, from Cameroon.
The Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene: The pope has pleaded for better treatment of refugees as attitudes towards migrants harden across Europe
Pope Francis returned to the island of Lesbos today, the migration flashpoint he first visited in 2016
Menal Albilal, a Syrian mother with a two-month-old child, said the conditions in the camp at Mytilene ‘are not good for a baby’
The temporary Mavrovouni tent camp was hurriedly erected after the sprawling camp of Moria, Europe’s largest such site at the time, burned down last year.
Greek authorities blamed a group of young Afghans for the incident and security was substantially enhanced for the pontiff’s Sunday visit.
The pope’s trip to Lesbos was shorter than his last as he will hold a mass for some 2,500 people at the Megaron Athens Concert Hall later in the day.
In Cyprus, where the pope visited before Greece this week, authorities said that 50 migrants will be relocated to Italy thanks to Francis.
He took 12 Syrian refugees with him during his last visit to Lesbos in 2016.
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