Speaking in Greece Pope Francis said “In Europe, there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them – this is tragic,”
With 27 people dying last month alone when crossing between France and the UK when their dingy sank, it’s hard not to disagree with the Pope. Several people also died whilst trying to cross into Poland from Belarus recently.
Since the Pope’s first visit to Lesbos, which was a major entry point into Europe around 2016, there have been new entry points for migrants but the Pope was disappointed to see that not much has changed in the neglect of asylum seekers.
He stated that “History teaches us that narrow self-interest and nationalism lead to disastrous consequences.” Concluding that Europe needs to come together to sort out the migrant situation together for the benefit of everyone.
But instead, countries are choosing to push back migrants while they are at sea and land borders, as well as putting up fences to prevent migrants from reaching the EU.
The number so far this year of people entering the UK is over 26,000, double the total for last year, and it shows little signs of stopping as all across the Mediterranean people are finding ways to enter the EU. The International Organization for Migration reported that over 1,500 people have gone missing whilst enduring the hazardous journey across the world.
The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the fact that major changes need to be made to how migration is approached and handled by many nations but it seems to be low on the agenda for Governments.
The number of people moving through Greece has fallen dramatically over the last three years, down to 8,000 from 75,000 in 2019. The Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who accompanied Pope Francis at his speech, pointed out that the migration issue is not just a Greek issue but one that should be discussed in all of Europe.
She commented on the closed camps being set up on several Greek islands and denied claims that Greece was pushing back migrants at sea and that they were instead helping save lives.
However, British Home Secretary Priti Patel has commented that the use of pushbacks in Greece could be adopted for the UK to push back migrants in the channel.