Written by CNN Staff Writer
Pope Francis has decried the “shipwreck of civilization” that “destroys human beings” as he visited refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos.
The pope — who has repeatedly called for action to address migration — spent four hours visiting a center in Mytilene where migrants were waiting to be processed.
Some 5,000 asylum seekers are waiting to be processed on the island, as they make their way across the Mediterranean.
Francis arrived on Lesbos on Saturday morning to the screams of locals and migrants yelling “Father, Father.”
“In your pastoral ministry you have visited this island many times, and each time you saw a shipwreck of civilization which destroys human beings and families and looks for solutions in the destruction of persons, their homes and their land,” Francis said.
More than 300,000 migrants arrived on Lesbos in 2015 alone during the peak of the so-called refugee crisis, before smugglers organized the free passage to Europe by sea.
The flow of refugees stopped in 2017 as conflict and violence in the Middle East and North Africa led to fewer migrant arrivals.
A group of migrants waiting to board a bus near one of the refugee camps in Mytilene, Lesbos. EPA/GENYA SAVILOV
This year, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Greece has less than doubled — around 40,000 — but in many areas the climate is tense as all areas are now overcrowded.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras criticized Greece’s international creditors last week and accused European institutions of failing to show adequate solidarity to Greek families seeking to survive economically.
“When I talk of European solidarity, it is to talk of a solidarity we cannot ignore, that insists that the Greek people stop experiencing such pain,” he said.
Tsipras was referring to the fact that Greece has a collective debt of around €320 billion ($355 billion), although Greece’s primary budget surplus — the first time it has been in surplus — has topped 5 percent of GDP this year.