Pope: Refugee Crisis 'Greatest Human Catastrophe'

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 1:45 PM

Reports propose the Pope will take ten refugees facing deportation to Turkey back to Italy with him in a hugely symbolic gesture.

Pope: Refugee Crisis 'Greatest Human Catastrophe'

Pope Francis has described the refugee crisis on the Greek island of Lesbos as the "greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War Two".

Arriving on the island, where he met asylum seekers due to be deported to Turkey below the controversial EU agreement, he said the visit was "marked by sadness".

The Pope visited the Moria detention camp where 2.300 people are being held by the Greek authorities, and where he'll have lunch with eight refugees.

Some of the migrants wept as they met the Pontiff. He was shown artwork by some of the children detained there and was given a picture by one girl, telling his staff: "Don't fold it I wish it on my desk."

Those who'd not been chosen to meet the Pope held banners reading "We're also human" and "Pope you're our hope".

Pope Francis was greeted by the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who said the visit was "historic and important".

He said he was pleased of his country'south response to the migrant crisis when other countries in Europe were "erecting walls and fences to prevent defenceless people from seeking a better life".

Macedonia, Croatia and Hungary erected 10ft razor-wire topped fences to hold stop refugees from crossing.

He'll also visit the sea to pay respects to the hundreds who have died trying to create the crossing after fleeing war-torn countries in the Center E and north Africa.

It was from the coast of Lesbos that images of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi being carried from the sea where he'd drowned shocked the world in September.

Speaking on the plane ahead of his trip, Pope Francis said: "This is a ride that's a bit different than the others ... this is a ride marked by sadness.

"We're going to encounter the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War Two. We'll look many people who are suffering, who don't know where to go, who'd to flee.

"We're also going to a cemetery, the sea. So many people died there ... this is what's in my heart as I create this trip."

According to Greek TV, the Pope has consent to take ten refugees back to Italy with him - eight Syrians and two Afghans - in what'd be seen as a hugely symbolic gesture.

However, the Vatican has refused to comment on the report.

Italy has it own migrant crisis to deal with on the island of Lampedusa, which also sees hundreds trying to cross each year, and the country has repeatedly asked the EU for help.

Pope Francis visited refugees there in two thousand-thirteenth where he spoke of the "global indifference" to the plight of refugees.

More than a million migrants entered the EU latest year, about half landing on the beaches of Lesbos.

Greece, still suffering from the recession, had continuously appealed to the EU for assistance after borders were closed to migrants trying to cross putting more pressure on the impoverished country.

But the EU agreement to send refugees back to Turkey to attempt to stem the flow has been controversial and the Pope'south visit, although humanitarian, will shine a spotlight on the human cost of that deal. 

Relief agencies have criticised conditions in the camp as "unacceptable", with "unaccompanied minors locked up behind barbed wire".

Gauri van Gulik, deputy Europe director at Amnesty International, said: "The Pope'south visit comes at a pivotal moment: right as Europe is gearing up to send thousands of refugees back to Turkey, locking them up in the meantime in horrible conditions.

"These are people who fled the horrors of Islamic State, the Taliban, bombings in Syria and more. They deserve Europe'south protection and care, and hopefully the Pope can shed light on their plight."

There was a tiny protest exterior the Moria detention camp on Friday, with demonstrators saying the Pope should do more.

Overnight graffiti saying "Papa don't preach" had to be removed after it was sprayed at the venues where Pope Francis is due to speak. 

Hospital Dr Stathis Pavlou, said: "We should be helping these people, not locking them up."

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has criticised David Cameron'south resettlement programme for Syrian refugees, saying it was a "grand disappointment".

He told the Radio four Today programme that British assistance for refugees was too unhurried and "we could be doing more".

 

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