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World News

Pope Francis condemns disregard for refugees during Marseille visit

by Reuters Journalist

Pope Francis said on Friday (September 22) it was the "duty of humanity" to rescue migrants drowning at sea during a visit to Marseille.

Francis, 86, spoke at an inter-religious prayer service before a monument dedicated to those lost at sea.

He said :"We cannot be resigned to seeing human beings treated as bargaining chips, imprisoned and tortured in atrocious ways; we can no longer watch the drama of shipwrecks, caused by the cruel trafficking and the fanaticism of indifference. People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity; it is a duty of civilization.

"Let us not get used to considering shipwrecks as news stories, and deaths at sea as numbers: no, they are names and surnames, they are faces and stories, they are broken lives and shattered dreams. I think of so many brothers and sisters drowned in fear, along with the hopes they carried in their hearts."

Some NGOs have complained that governments have blocked some of their ships from leaving Mediterranean ports for reasons the groups consider unjustifiable. Some have also complained that their ships are forced to dock at ports far from areas where migrant boats are usually found.

According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, about 178,500 migrants have come to Europe in the year to date via the Mediterranean, while about 2,500 died or went missing on the way.

The pope, who was greeted at Marseilles airport by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and who will meet twice with President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday (September 23), is making the 27-hour trip to Marseille to conclude a meeting of Catholic young people and bishops from the Mediterranean area.

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