Pope Francis condemns treatment of migrants in Europe

The Pope has hit out at Europe’s treatment of migrants as he commenced a visit to a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. The pontiff took to a lectern to deliver a speech to a refugee group in the area. 

Pope Francis said the “narrow self-interest and nationalism” that creates barriers in front of allowing people to be helped has left the groups open to being used as political propaganda. He also criticised the building of walls to keep people out. 

“In Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them – this is tragic,” he said. “History teaches us that narrow self-interest and nationalism lead to disastrous consequences.”

While the coronavirus pandemic had shown that major challenges had to be confronted together and there were some signs of this happening on climate change, there was little sign of such an approach to migration, he lamented.

“It is easy to influence public opinion by instilling fear of the other,” Pope Francis said. “The remote causes should be attacked, not the poor people who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda.” 

Pope Francis was speaking about Europe’s treatment of migrants as he visited the Mavrovouni camp which houses around 2,000 asylum seekers. This camp replaced the overcrowded Moria camp that was destroyed by fire last year. The president of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, accompanied the Pope on the visit and stated that the migration issue was the responsibility of all of Europe, not just Greece.

Greece is building closed camps on several islands to house asylum seekers until their claims are processed. It denies that Greek coast guards push back migrants at sea, insisting that they are saving lives.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel has cited the Greek pushbacks as a possible model for the UK to push back migrant boats in the Channel. Last month, 27 people died as their dinghy collapsed making the journey over the Channel from France to the UK.

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Written by

Claire Gordon