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Pope Francis visits Lesbos refugee camp, condemns treatment of migrants in Europe

08:03 PM Dec 05, 2021 | Agencies

Pope Francis returned Sunday to the Greek island of Lesbos to offer comfort to migrants at a refugee camp and blast what he said was the indifference and self-interest shown by Europe "that condemns to death those on the fringes." "Please, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!" Francis said at the Mavrovouni camp, a cluster of white U.N. containers on the edge of the sea lined by barbed wire fencing and draped with laundry hanging from lines.

Pope Francis spent some time with the refugees residing at the Mavrovouni refugee camp which was built last year to replace the burned down Moria camp.

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Pope Francis has previously visited the refugee camp in Lesbos in 2016. Back then, the pontiff took with him back to Italy 12 Muslim refugees from Syria, including six children, who have ever since managed to build their lives in Rome.

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That concrete gesture of solidarity had raised hopes among the current residents of the Lesbos camp, many of whom have given birth to children here while waiting for their asylum claims to be processed and saw in Francis' visit a chance at finally getting out.

Francis' visit to Lesbos was the highlight of his five-day trip, recalling his 2016 visit with the Orthodox leadership when he wept at the plight of asylum-seekers packed into a camp that eventually burned down last year.

More than 1 million people, many fleeing war in Iraq and Syria, crossed from Turkey into Greece during 2015 and 2016, with Lesbos the busiest Greek crossing point. The flow may have ebbed in Lesbos, but it hasn't stopped and anti-migrant sentiment in Greece and beyond has only hardened in the ensuing years, with the latest flashpoint on the EU's Polish border with Belarus.

Greece has recently built a steel wall along a section of the Greek-Turkish land border and is intercepting boats transporting migrants from the Turkish side. It denies allegations that it is carrying out summary deportations of migrants reaching Greek territory but human rights groups say numerous such pushbacks have occurred.

Ahead of Sunday's stop by Francis, human rights groups have stepped up their criticism of Greece's treatment of migrants and of tougher migration policies among the EU's 27 members.

Amnesty International said new EU-funded detention camps on Greek islands were in violation of Athens' commitments to provide international protection to those in need.

Also Read: Hindu turned Roman catholic Devasahayam Pillai to be canonized by Pope Francis in May next year

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