Pope Francis has appealed to the international community to take swift and decisive action to avoid more tragedies of migrants seeking a better life. His heartfelt cry to the world came following news of the sinking of yet another boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean Sea in which it is feared 700 people may be dead.
The Pope was speaking on Sunday morning after the Regina Coeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square, where he told tens of thousands of people “They are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life”.
Faced with such a tragedy – Pope Francis continued – I express my most heartfelt pain and promise to remember the victims and their families in prayer. “I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to react decisively and quickly to see to it that such tragedies are not repeated,” he said, before asking the crowd to pray “for these brothers and sisters”.
The latest disaster happened when a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, in one of the worst disasters seen in the Mediterranean migrant crisis. Just Saturday Pope Francis joined Italian authorities in pressing the European Union to do more to help the country cope with rapidly mounting numbers of desperate people rescued in the Mediterranean during journeys on smugglers’ boats to flee war, persecution or poverty.
While hundreds of migrants took their first steps on land in Sicilian ports, dozens more were rescued at sea. Sicilian towns were running out of places to shelter the arrivals, including more than 10,000 in the week ending Saturday. Since the start of 2014, nearly 200,000 people have been rescued at sea by Italy.
Italy says it will continue rescuing migrants but demands that the European Union increase assistance to shelter and rescue them. Since most of the migrants want to reach family or other members of their community in northern Europe, Italian governments have pushed for those countries to do more, particularly by taking in the migrants while their requests for asylum or refugee status are examined.