CNN — Pope Francis met with refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos on Sunday, his second trip to the island, which has become a symbol of the migrant crisis, in five years.
“Please stop this sinking civilization! said the Pope at the Reception and Identification Center in Mytilene, denouncing the loss of human life in the Mediterranean and in countries that close their borders to refugees.
“We live in the age of barbed wire and walls,” Francis said, but the coronavirus pandemic has made us realize that “we’re all in this together.”
“Let’s stop ignoring reality,” the pope said, “let’s stop constantly changing responsibility, let’s stop shifting the issue of migration to others.”
The Mytilene camp currently houses around 2,000 refugees, many of whom are from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.
Hawar, an Iraqi refugee, told CNN she had been stuck in camps on Lesbos for six years. Her asylum claims, she said, are continually being rejected as new refugees from Afghanistan, she said, have already been transferred.
She said she’s ready to go anywhere. “It was better in my country,” she said. “It’s like a prison here.”
Khaled, a Syrian refugee in a wheelchair, said he would like to ask the pope why some people are more equal than others.
“We hope the pope will listen, others are not listening. All the families here have problems,” he said.
Francis walked along the camp’s gravel streets and shook hands with some of the refugees lined up outside the storage containers they call home.
The pope thanked the Greek residents of Lesvos for welcoming refugees, despite the pressure it puts on their small island.
During the pope’s visit in 2016, he brought 12 refugees from Lesvos back on his papal plane bound for Rome.
The Cypriot government said on Friday that the pope was organizing the transfer of 50 refugees from Cyprus to Italy. The Vatican has confirmed that 12 will be transferred in the coming weeks.
Francis ends his five-day visit to Cyprus and Greece on Monday.
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