Pope to Europe: There's No Migrant 'Emergency' Here

Francis implores Macron, other leaders to open their doors to people fleeing hardships
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 23, 2023 9:00 AM CDT
Pope to Europe: There's No Migrant 'Emergency' Here
Pope Francis, left, flanked by French President Emmanuel Macron, center, and Macron's wife Brigitte, is seen in Marseille, France, on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope Francis challenged French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders to open their ports to people fleeing hardship and poverty, insisting Saturday that the continent isn't facing a migration "emergency," but rather a long-term reality that governments must deal with humanely. For a second straight day in the French port city of Marseille, Francis took aim at European countries that have tried to close their doors to migrants, with the pontiff attempting to shame them into responding with charity instead. He called for migrants to have legal pathways to citizenship, and for the Mediterranean Sea that so many people try to cross to reach Europe to be a beacon of hope, not a graveyard of desperation, per the AP.

The Mediterranean, Francis told Macron and a gathering of regional bishops, "cries out for justice, with its shores that on the one hand exude affluence, consumerism, and waste, while on the other there is poverty and instability." The pope's visit to the city in southern France comes as Italy's far right-led government has reacted to a new wave of arriving migrants by threatening to organize a naval blockade of Tunisia and to step up repatriations. The French government, for its part, has beefed up patrols on its southern border to stop migrants in Italy from crossing over.

Macron's centrist government has taken a harder line on migration and security issues after coming under criticism from French conservatives and the far right. With elections for the European Union's Parliament set for next year, Macron is pushing for the EU to strengthen its external borders and to be more efficient in deporting individuals who are denied entry. Francis' two-day trip was scheduled months ago, but it's taking place as mass migration to Europe is once again making headlines. Nearly 7,000 migrants who boarded smugglers' boats in Tunisia came ashore on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa within a day last week, briefly outnumbering the resident population. Nevertheless, Francis said talk of a migration "emergency" only fuels "alarmist propaganda" and stokes peoples' fears.

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"Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they look for welcome, for life," he said. "As for the emergency, the phenomenon of migration is ... a reality of our times, a process that involves three continents around the Mediterranean and that must be governed with wise foresight, including a European response capable of coping with the objective difficulties." History's first Latin American pope has made the plight of migrants a priority of his 10-year pontificate. For his first trip as pope, he traveled to Lampedusa to honor migrants who'd drowned while attempting to cross the sea. In the years since, he has celebrated Mass on the US-Mexico border, met with Myanmar's Rohingya refugees, and, in a visible display of his commitment, brought home 12 Syrian Muslims on his plane after visiting a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece.

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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