Criticizing European stance on refugees, Pope Francis on Sunday urged globally coordinated action to tackle the issue as he visited Greek island Lesbos on the second day of his visit to Greece.
The issue of irregular migration is a problem of the world, to which no one can close their eyes, he said in a speech at the Mavrovouni refugee camp on the island.
With the European Union hardening border controls, the pope said: “We are in the age of walls and barbed wire.”
He warned that problems are not resolved by “building walls higher, but by joining forces to care for others … and in respect for the law, always giving primacy to the inalienable value of the life of every human being.”
Fleeing war or poverty, tens of thousands of people in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya have turned toward Europe in recent years, hoping for a better life or just safety.
The pope said awareness that global action is required to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change is missing when it comes to the issue of irregular migration.
“The future of us all is at stake, and that future will be peaceful only if it is integrated. Only if it is reconciled with the most vulnerable,” he said.
Referring to the increasing number of refugees who lost their lives while trying to reach Europe, the pope said: “The Mediterranean, which for millennia united different peoples and distant countries, becomes a cold cemetery without inscriptions. This great basin, the cradle of so many civilizations, now seems like a mirror of death.”
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who accompanied the pope, argued that the country has carried a disproportionate burden from irregular migration and refugee crises.
Addressing these issues transcends national boundaries and is a shared responsibility of Europe, she said.
Pope’s audience on the island also included European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi, members of the local Greek Catholic community, humanitarian workers, and dozens of residents of the refugee camp.
In Athens on Saturday, the pontiff expressed concern over democracy’s retreat globally due to growing populism and called for dedicated efforts to promote the common good.