Pope Francis urges Europe to rush to aid of migrant-laden boats
Series of shipwrecks and drowned passengers prompts call to action
(U.S. Navy file photo)
Pope Francis has called the drowning of migrants in the Mediterranean after a spate of shipwrecks in recent months regrettable and has urged countries in Europe and elsewhere to rush to their aid.
Speaking to crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday for the noontime Angelus prayer and blessing, the pope sent his condolences to bereaved families and called on “the international community to act decisively and quickly so similar tragedies aren’t repeated.”
“I express my pain,” the pope said while urging the international community to “act decisively and immediately so that similar tragedies might be avoided and to guarantee the safety, respect for human rights, and the dignity” of all those involved.
A number of boats have been stranded at sea this year as Italy’s populist government has begun refusing them entry while Malta has also adopted a more hardline approach by not allowing aid groups to dock.
On June 5 the death toll shot up to 112 after a boat packed with migrants capsized near the Kerkennah Islands off the coast of Tunisia, according to the Organization for Migration (IOM).
Later that same month (June 24) almost 1,000 migrants were rescued from inflatable boats attempting to make the same passage.
Traffickers use this route to transport migrants to Europe but such sea crossings have become perilous amid rougher weather and tightened controls by Libya’s coastguard aided by armed groups, according to Al Jazeera.
Previously, the most deadly incident recorded in the region occurred on Feb. 2 when 90 people drowned off the coast of Libya, the IOM said.
As of June, over 650 people have been recorded dead or missing in the Mediterranean this year, with over 33,000 surviving the dangerous journey to try and start a new life.
In March more than 120 migrants, mostly from Tunisia, were rescued while trying to reach Italy.
The events that unfolded in June led European Union leaders to forge a pact aimed at sharing responsibility for hosting migrants including the establishment of “disembarkation platforms” outside the EU.
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