Pope demands compassion for migrants

Pope demands compassion for migrants

Pope Francis has called on EU leaders to show “concrete solidarity” to 49 migrants stranded off Malta who are being refused permission to land.
The pontiff told thousands in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican: “I address a pressing appeal to European leaders that they show some concrete solidarity with respect to these people.”
The migrants, who include a baby, have been on the Sea-Watch 3 for 16 days, the longest wait by a Mediterranean charity ship. Another 17 migrants were picked up by the Sea-Eye.
The pope, who is descended from Italian immigrants, has previously made similar appeals to European leaders.
Robin Jenkins, a British volunteer on the Sea-Watch 3, condemned the boats’ treatment. “This is reckless and shocking behaviour by Europe,” the 45-year-old told the media.
Jenkins said he rescued many of those on board from a sinking dinghy on December 22. “If we hadn’t found them their chances of surviving were slim to nothing,” he added.
Malta allowed the boats to shelter – but not dock –during a storm, as three-metre waves hammered the vessels.
The Maltese authorities sent food and water to the ships but one migrant, who tried to swim ashore, was hauled back on board.
Jenkins said those on board had whip scars from Libyan prison camps. “It looks like they pervertedly seek new ways to be vicious,” the volunteer added.
The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, earlier called for a member state to admit the boats.
But Italy’s populist government appears unlikely to relax its anti-immigrant position.
“In Italy, no more people are arriving,” said interior minister Matteo Salvini of the far-right Lega. “That’s the line and it will not change.”
Malta said it had to find a balance between protecting lives and security.
Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, said: “This is an issue that might set a precedent and we should be vigilant about it.
“It is easy to play the Christmas saint with everyone but then come January, February and the summer period we would be told to do the same.”
Using an odd analogy, Muscat added that allowing the boatload of impoverished migrants to land would mean “the bullies would have won”.
“That is why we are stressing that we do not want this case to set a precedent.”
The tiny Maltese islands have a population of around 450,000. While already crowded, Malta’s proximity to Libya makes it an obvious target for those in charge of migrant ships.

 

Malta. Picture credit: Public Domain

 

 

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