Pope Francis compares Libyan migrants camps to ‘concentration camps’

Image copyright AFP Image caption Vatican officials have raised concerns about the camps, which could house up to 100,000 people The Vatican has compared Libya’s camps for migrants and refugees to “concentration camps” with…

Pope Francis compares Libyan migrants camps to 'concentration camps'

Image copyright AFP Image caption Vatican officials have raised concerns about the camps, which could house up to 100,000 people

The Vatican has compared Libya’s camps for migrants and refugees to “concentration camps” with “no end in sight”.

Pope Francis made the comments during his visit to Rome on Monday.

A Vatican spokesman later said that the Church was troubled by reports of camps for migrants in Libya that were so overcrowded they had begun forming “satellite towns”.

At least two countries are working with Libya to block the migrants on the journey to Europe.

The BBC’s Gregory Hunt in the Vatican says that the pope did not specifically mention the right-wing Italian government in Rome, but said that any such policy would “change the face of Italy”.

Mr Hunt says that one centre for migrants, in Libya’s western city of Sabratha, is said to have held 70,000 people – almost the same number of people who were taken in by a Franciscan monastery in Italy.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Pope Francis made the comments during his visit to Rome

The spokesperson, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican was deeply concerned about “reports of concentration camps” in Libya that were now, “however large”.

He said: “There are three reasons for this: The first is, we know that armed groups that could function as the right-wing government or other political party have had some direct contacts with these armed groups, which are now aiding and abetting the operation of ‘migrant camps’ which are not limited to those known to the United Nations.”

In Sabratha, we find an alternative ‘model’ for migrants and refugees

Fr Lombardi

BBC News

“We are afraid that as those who control this money and whom people have given their trust could be reformed, they would begin to control and place more people than they could manage to move,” he added.

Government forces, backed by the Libyan coastguard, have helped block crossings by smugglers.

A joint Italian-Libyan mission has also brought hundreds of mostly sub-Saharan Africans back to Italy from Libya.

The Pope, who was welcomed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the Quirinale palace, said “the policy of containing migrants does not seem to solve any problems at all” and said the issue “should not end” in Italy.

His comments come amid strong criticism of Italian policy by Italy’s centre-left opposition, including the leader of the Democratic Party, Matteo Renzi.

However, on Monday, an Italian government spokesperson said that while Italy was bearing the main costs of the migrants, it was putting forward proposals to repatriate those who “no longer wanted to enter Europe”.

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Italians are under pressure to take a tougher stance after a man from Ivory Coast was arrested in the port of Genoa after he was found with five children who he had not been allowed to bring to Italy.

The Pope’s comments on Monday come after a 13-year-old migrant girl who spent four days locked up in a stadium in Sabratha after being caught on the Libyan coast appeared on the Italian 10pm news with a heart-wrenching story.

Cadette Anise Lamine said she was with smugglers in Libya when smugglers caught up with her and forced her onto a boat, which sank.

She said her rescuers were Libyan police who knocked her to the ground and left her on the ground.

After four days in the stadium, she was taken to Rome where she said there were no mattresses and “not a centimetre” of food.

Libya is the world’s biggest source of migrants. An estimated 30,000 people made the hazardous journey last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

One Eritrean man, Abeer Buha, told BBC News that after crossing the desert into Libya, he was fired on with an air gun as the people smugglers tried to set up a trip to Europe.

“The European leaders are talking about migration and asylum and they told us that they will let us go to Europe. But they don’t help us and the continent and nations are not helping us.”

“But my country destroyed my future… I have dreams that I want to fulfil,” he added.

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