Pope says Med is migrant graveyard

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Pope Francis denounced the Mediterranean Sea as a graveyard for migrants shortly before embarking on his trip to Cyprus and Greece, where he will give a message of support for refugees.

“I am also thinking of those who, in recent years and still today, have been fleeing from war and poverty, landing on the shores of the continent or elsewhere, and finding not hospitality, but hostility and even exploitation,” the Pope said in a video message.

“They are our brothers and sisters. How many have lost their lives at sea. Today ‘our sea’, the Mediterranean, is a great cemetery”.

In his video message, Pope Francis expressed his joy over the upcoming visit to Cyprus and Greece, which begins on 2 December.

His visit will follow in the footsteps of the first great missionaries, especially the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, he said, noting the importance of going to the origins of the Church to “rediscover the joy of the Gospel”.

The Pope asked for prayers from all as he prepares for this “pilgrimage to the wellsprings”.

His meetings with the people will help “quench” his thirst at the “wellsprings of fraternity”.

He addressed, too, the “small flocks” of Catholics in those lands, saying he is looking forward to sharing his affection with them and bringing them “the encouragement of the whole Catholic Church”.

The Pope said how this visit would allow him to “drink from the ancient wellsprings of Europe”, with Cyprus as the continent’s outpost of the Holy Land and Greece the home of classical culture.

The Pope pointed out that the sea embraces many peoples and lands called to live together in peace and mutual acceptance.

His thoughts turned to those fleeing from war and poverty, landing on the shores of these lands, and the hostility or exploitation they have endured in their migrations.

He emphasised that they are “our brothers and sisters”, noting that so many have lost their lives at sea, and the Mediterranean has become a “great cemetery”.

Praise for Pope

Joseph Borghese, humanitarian, entrepreneur, and founder of “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Centre, welcomed the Pope’s solidarity gesture to transfer 50 refugees/asylum seekers from Cyprus to Italy.

He said an “expression of solidarity needs to exist among states and societies, especially when it seems that prejudices, racism and xenophobia are widely spread against people who are forced to flee their country due to persecution, war or violence”.

“Without a doubt, children belong to the most vulnerable group during wars, and they are the ones most affected by the consequences of such situations as well as by the policies applied by the reception countries.”

As an organisation that works to protect and promote children’s rights, Hope For Children operates in Cyprus private children’s shelters to accommodate unaccompanied children, “Homes for Hope”, and a semi-independent living program for 16 and 21-year-olds.

The travel of unaccompanied children aims to a better life for them, a safer environment and, often, reunification with members of their family located in Cyprus or other EU member states such as Germany and Sweden.

These children mainly come from Syria, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

In cooperation with other stakeholders and public authorities in Cyprus, Hope For Children works to protect refugee children, their accommodation and provision of support services, family reunification, relocation and integration to the local society.

Since 2014 Hope For Children has accommodated more than 700 unaccompanied children.