Pope Francis addressed tens of thousands of people in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome on Wednesday, urging European nations to open their hearts and doors to help migrants and refugees. This is in the wake of many migrants being forced back to Greece, or being forcibly removed from their makeshift homes in the now destroyed “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, France.
The number grows:
Pope Francis’s call to action comes at a pivotal time. Earlier this week, 2,000 asylum seekers, in an act of defiance against Europe’s sealed southern borders, crossed into Macedonia to flee the conflict in the Middle East. 1,500 of these migrants were soon trucked back to Greece by border authorities. Pope Francis, known for his commitment to alleviating suffering among the world’s poor, used this occasion to bolster his stance on the defense of migrants and refugees.
Since 2014, the number of migrants and refugees crossing into the EU has increased dramatically. In 2014, the number of migrant and refugee arrivals by land and by sea was estimated at 280,000. This number jumped tremendously in 2015. The EU has claimed 1,321,560 migrants and refugees: 1,011,700 by sea and 34,900 by land. Italy, Greece and Hungary are taking in the highest numbers currently. However, the vast majority of these refugees have not been processed and remain in limbo.
"How many of our brothers these days are living through a real and dramatic situation of exile, far from their homelands. In their eyes they still have the ruins of their homes" – Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Destruction of the Jungle:
Earlier in the week, 5,500 migrants who were living in Calais’s Jungle were forcibly removed. This site had become a place of limbo for migrants hoping to cross into England since 2002. The French government is currently bulldozing it to the ground, leaving a war zone-like debris in the wake.
Last week I went to Calais & Dunkirk where I saw the destruction of people's homes. Refugees need safe routes now: https://t.co/D4EWzHhYnl— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) March 16, 2016
Last stages of demolition of "The Jungle" Calais migrant camp: The destruction of the Jungle has prompted prot... https://t.co/cZvhWsFJDl— Ukraine News (@UaNews_online) March 15, 2016
The Pope’s speech of compassion is especially poignant when juxtaposed with the images of refugees being sprayed with tear gas to evacuate Calais and herded like cattle back to Greece. It stresses the need for the EU to halt their efforts to push all refugees to Turkey and proactively deal with the crisis.
Pope Francis spells it out:
The pope ended his speech by chiding nations that have closed their borders and praising those who have acted with heart. This message is not new and it will not end here. What the public can expect is for Pope Francis to continue to press the world’s elite to assist the world’s most vulnerable. What we as global citizens can do is act righteously with our votes and our hearts.