Pope vehemently condemns exploitation of migrants
Pope Francis condemned the exploitation of migrants for political purposes on Sunday during a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, lamenting that Europe had entered “an era of walls and barbed wire”.
Francis, who was to have been driven straight to the podium, instead walked through the camp, stopping to greet dozens of refugees and giving a high five hand greeting to a young African boy.
Francis, who first visited one of the main entry points for migrants in 2016 and took 12 Syrian refugees back to Italy with him, returned briefly as part of his five-day trip to Cyprus and Greece to meet with refugees at the Mavrovouni camp, which holds about 2,300 people.
He lamented that “little has changed with regard to the issue of migration” since his last visit five years ago.
The Mediterranean, where thousands have died trying to make the crossing from north Africa to Europe, was still “a grim cemetery without tombstones”.
“I am here to see your faces and look into your eyes. Eyes full of fear and expectancy, eyes that have seen violence and poverty, eyes streaked by too many tears,” he said at the camp’s reception and identification area.
Francis for the second straight day chided those who use the migration crisis for political ends.
“It is easy to stir up public opinion by instilling fear of others,” he said, adding that people who are anti-immigrant “fail to speak with equal vehemence” about the exploitation of the poor, wars, and the arms industry.
“The remote causes should be attacked, not the poor people who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda,” he said.
Departing from his prepared address, Francis said it was “distressing” to hear that some European leaders wanted to use common funds to build a wall and put up barbed wire to keep immigrants out. “We are in the era of walls and barbed wire,” he said.