Taking a "fearful and self-absorbed" Europe to task in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Pope Francis called on continental leaders to display compassion to migrants fleeing turbulent countries.
Saying that the 28-nation European Union confronted “growing mistrust" from the public, the pontiff charged that many people see the EU as "aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful.” He urged leaders to address poverty and unemployment, denouncing a "globalization of indifference" that he charged wreaks havoc on disadvantaged peoples, particularly immigrants.
Referring to migrants from Africa who have perished in makeshift boats as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, Francis said such immigrants need "acceptance and assistance."
“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,” he declared. “The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.”
The EU's inability to forge an agreement on how to deal with the migrants demonstrated a failure "to take into account the human dignity of immigrants and thus contribute[s] to slave labor and continuing social tensions," Francis added.
According to aid groups, 3,300 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, while the Italian navy and coast guard claim they've saved 150,000 boat migrants this year.
Most asylum seekers seeking to enter Europe come from war-torn countries Syria and Eritrea, with others coming from Gambia, Ghana, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria and the Palestinian territories.