Pope visits migrant camps on Lesvos
Pope Francis visited the Reception and Identification migrant center on Lesvos on Sunday and called on the world to not forget the refugee and migrant crises during his speech in the presence of the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi, and European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinasand 92 refugees who live in the camp.
“We are talking about human lives,” he stressed and added that he did not see much change from his previous visit. “We have to bitterly admit that this country [Greece] and others are in a difficult situation and there are those in Europe who insist to address these problems as issues that do not affect them,” he said.
Pope Francis also criticized the idea of building a wall to keep people out, stating that fences and walls do not solve problems. He also spoke of the ease with which fear of the other can spread through society and wondered why society focuses on the people who are the expression of the problem rather than its root causes.
“Let us find the courage to be ashamed in front of them, who are innocent and our future,” he said of the children in the camp. “Let us not hastily escape the brutal images of their tiny bodies lying lifeless on the sands,” he stated and added that “let us not let our sea turn into a sea of the dead.”
“Today’s visit by the Pope gladdens all us migrants,” says an 18-year-old from the Republic of Congo who has been at the camp for more than year. “I now know that there is someone out there thinking of us,” he added and stated that “he gives us hope and the strength to carry on.”
However, the Pope’s visit is not just important for the Catholic inhabitants of the camp as it is not a question of religion, but solidarity, and there will be 37 Muslim camp members attending the Pope’s speech.
“He demonstrates that he is with us, as a brother,” says a 60-year-old Iraqi refugee, before adding that “every one of us is like me, like you.”
This is the second visit of the Pope to the Greek island, who throughout his visit to Greece and Cyprus, but also his entire tenure, has prioritized the issues of refugees and migrants.