Saturday, April 16, 2016

Refugee crisis: Pope Francis arrives in Lesbos

Pope Francis has arrived in Lesbos, the Greek island on the frontline of Europe's refugee crisis for people striving to reach Western Europe on boats from Turkey.

Francis, who took off from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 05:20GMT, arrived on the island at around 7:00GMT for a visit expected to last five hours.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have arrived in Lesbos in recent months on flimsy boats, while hundreds have died on the way.

In a move bound to turn the spotlight on Europe's controversial deal with Turkey to end the unprecedented refugee crisis, the pontiff will visit a processing centre.

The EU-Turkey deal as well as the processing centre have been slammed by rights groups, who claim refugees in Lesbos have been treated in a way that breaches basic human rights.

His stay will also include lunch with a handful of refugees in one of the adapted containers used to accommodate them, hearing their stories of fleeing war, conflict and poverty and their hopes for a better life in Europe.

Hours before Francis arrived, the European border patrol agency Frontex intercepted a dinghy carrying 41 Syrians and Iraqis off the coast of Lesbos.

The refugees were detained and brought to shore in the main port of Mytilene.

Also ahead of the visit, municipal crews scrubbed the walls of the capital and port after graffiti reading "Papa Don't Preach" was sprayed in black at several points on the seafront in Mytilene.

The Vatican insists Saturday's visit is purely humanitarian and religious in nature, not political or a "direct" criticism of the EU plan.
Source: Agencies -


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