Dec 6, 2021 - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis addresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on December 5

Pope Francis addresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Dec. 5. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... Let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Pope Francis (2R) speaks with refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on December 5
Pope Francis greets refugees in Mytilene on Lesbos, Greece, on Dec. 5. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images
  • His comments come less than two weeks after 27 people died when their United Kingdom-bound inflatable boat sank in the English Channel between France and the U.K. — sparking a dispute between the British and French governments on how to respond to such crossings.

What else he's saying: Francis noted that Greece, like other countries, continued to be hard-pressed. "[I]n Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them," he added. "This is tragic."

  • The pope said it's "distressing" to learn of proposals to build walls and barbed wire as a solution for displaced peoples seeking help.
  • "We are in the age of walls and barbed wire," he added. "To be sure, we can appreciate people's fears and insecurities, the difficulties and dangers involved, and the general sense of fatigue and frustration, exacerbated by the economic and pandemic crises."

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