In a strong symbolic message to EU’s member countries, Pope Francis will leave the island of Lesvos with 10 refugees from the so-called vulnerable groups: sing-parent families, mothers with children, people with disabilities or health problems. the refugees have arrived in Greece before March 20th, when the EU Turkey Deal went into effect and are now “trapped” in Greece after the borders closure.
According to state ERT TV, the refugees are 8 Syrians and 2 Afghans, with the latter to have been excluded from the EU relocation scheme.
The refugees were chosen yesterday Friday per draw among those in Kara Tepe hot spot. A delegation from Vatican had arrived earlier to make the arrangements.
It is not clear whether the 10 refugees will stay in Vatican City.
This move by Pope Francis is considered as an expression of his discontent about the policy and practice of relocation scheme as well as a strong message to EU leaders who refuse to comply with the decisions they agreed upon.
Pope Francis meets detained minors at Moria detention center. They arrived on Lesvos after March 20th, they most likely be sent back to Turkey, if they cannot claim asylum.
Pope Francis arrived at 10:20 a.m. on the island of Lesvos that “carries the burden of the Refugee crisis” as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told him, when he welcomed the Pontifex at the local airport.
Pope Francis told Greek PM that he ‘feels proud’ for Greek people’s stance and solidarity towards the refugees.
Yazidi Kurds waiting for the arrival of Pope Francis in Moria detention center.
More than 3,000 people are in Moria detention center as they arrived after March 20th.
A total of 417 people who have arrived before March 20 are in open accommodation centers (hot spots) like Kara Tepe, they are trapped on Lesvos.
Pope Francis message on Twitter
Together with the Greek Orthodox Church leadership, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Ieronymos, the head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis are sending a strong message to European Union and give hope to the thousands of refugees and migrants who are Muslims in their majority.
In Moria detention center, a refugee man breaks down in tears and tells Pope Francis “Father, Bless me!”
The visit is historic and off strict protocol – the heads of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches churches visit the refugees camps in the same vehicle, when normally Pope Francis uses a car of his own.
Pope Francis, PM Tsipras, Archbishop Ieronynous at the airport.
The visit is on Live broadcast via ERT, while it is the Vatican that provides live footage to media.
Highlights 2 hours – Footage via Radio Vatican
Live stream right now – Pray for refugees & migrants drowned trying to reach Europe
Among others, they sharply proclaim: “We appeal to all followers of Christ to be mindful of the Lord’s words, on which we will one day be judged.”Quoting Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel, they state: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
“The tragedy of forced migration and displacement affects millions, and is fundamentally a crisis of humanity, calling for a response of solidarity, compassion, generosity and an immediate practical commitment of resources,” they state.
“From Lesbos, we appeal to the international community to respond with courage,” they continue. “We call upon all political leaders to employ every means to ensure that individuals and communities … enjoy the fundamental right to live in peace and security.”
#PopeFrancis expresses admiration for Greeks who kept their hearts and doors wide open despite difficulties, praises the generosity of NGOs and the volunteers’ work.
“The Pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees from Syria, 12 people in all, including six children. These are all people who were already in camps in Lesbos before the agreement between the European Union and Turkey.The Pope’s initiative was brought to fruition through negotiations carried out by the Secretariat of State with the competent Greek and Italian authorities.
All the members of the three families are Muslims. Two families come from Damascus, and one from Deir Azzor (in the area occupied by Daesh). Their homes had been bombed.
The Vatican will take responsibility for bringing in and maintaining the three families. The initial hospitality will be taken care of by the Community of Sant’Egidio.”
What happened to the 2 Afghan refugees and the ‘social criteria’ state ERT TV had reported this morning? No idea…