Pope Francis is visiting Marseille, which has been a multi-ethnic and multi-faith hub for centuries, to underline his call to make the Mediterranean a welcoming destination for migrants. It is a lone voice in Europe, where some nations are resorting to border barriers, repatriations and naval blockades to stop a new surge of potential migrants. Francis is chairing the closing session of a meeting of Catholic bishops in the Mediterranean, but his two-day visit, which begins on Friday, is aimed at sending a message to Europe, North Africa and beyond. After m in the Basilica of Marseille, Francis leads ecumenical prayers at a memorial dedicated to those who died at sea, a figure predicted by the International Organization for Migration to exceed 28,000 since 2014.
Francis had long been saddened by the fact that the Mediterranean Sea had become the world’s largest cemetery. Had announced his visit months ago, but it comes as Italy is once again dealing with an influx of migrants arriving in boats from Tunisia. After the number of people landing on the island of Lampedusa momentarily exceeded the original population of 6,100, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called again for a naval blockade and announced additional centers to house those arriving. , who are not eligible for asylum until they return home.
France, for its part, stepped up border patrols on its southern border with Italy, a few hours’ drive from Marseille, and stepped up drone surveillance of the Alps to prevent new people crossing. With European Parliament elections coming next year and the far right challenging the centrist government line, French government officials stood firm. “France will not take migrants from Lampedusa,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on national TF1 television this week. He added that by taking in more people we will not stop the flow, which is clearly our aim to integrate them into French society. Affects capacity.