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Pope Francis urges EU not to send back rescued migrants

October 24, 2021

The pontiff has pleaded countries to offer migrants rescued from the Mediterranean safe disembarkation at ports, alternatives to detention, and access to asylum.

Migrants rescued by Sea Watch rescue vessel October 18, 2021
Italy has seen migrant and asylum-seeker arrivals double compared to last year the prime minister saidImage: ROPI/picture alliance

Pope Francis on Sunday called on governments to stop returning migrants rescued at sea to Libya and other "insecure countries" where they suffer "inhumane violence."

He urged countries to offer allows migrants to disembark from rescue ships at safe ports and guarantee migrants "alternatives to detention," as well as access to asylum.

"I express my closeness to the thousands of migrants, refugees and others in need of protection in Libya," Francis said following his Angelus prayer on Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican.

Pope Francis speaks from Saint Peter's Square
The pope called on European governments to keep the promises it made to help the sufferingImage: Giuseppe Lami/ZUMA Press/imago images

"So many of these men, women and children are subject to inhumane violence,'' he added. "I never forget you, I hear your cries and I pray for you."

The pontiff also urged the international community to "keep their promises" and find "concrete" ways to manage "migratory flows" in Libya and all the Mediterranean.

For years, the EU has financed and equipped the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants heading for Europe on makeshift boats and place them in detention centers.

Hundreds of rescued migrants await disembarkation

The pope's plea comes as over 400 migrants aboard the German rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 were brought safely ashore over the weekend to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo after Italy allowed it to dock. The migrants had been rescued off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea.

Italy and the European Union's eastern borders with Belarus are seeing a surge in migrant arrivals.

Also on Sunday, migrant rescue hotline Alarm Phone said two inflatable boats in the Mediterranean carrying 60 and 68 people, respectively, required urgent intervention.

Spain's Aita Mari rescue ship, which is carrying more than 100 migrants, is also seeking a port to disembark.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its Geo Barents charity boat had rescued another 95 people Saturday night, bringing the total of rescued migrants onboard to 296.

"We intervened before these people were forced to return to violence, abuse and exploitation in Libya," MSF tweeted.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told parliament on Wednesday that arrivals to Italy from the Mediterranean had doubled this year to 50,500 versus 26,000 in the same period a year ago. At least 1,106 people died this year attempting the crossing, he said.

mvb/sms (AP, AFP, EPD)

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