Pope Francis has likened migrant detention centers in Libya to “concentration camps” and called on the international community to intervene in a worsening migrant situation in the central Mediterranean region.
The Pontiff’s remarks after Sunday’s angelus come just a day after an Italian prosecutor summoned American Hollywood star Richard Gere to testify in a trial against Italy’s right-wing politician Matteo Salvini.
The Pope urged the international community to help find “lasting solutions” for the management of the migration flows.
“Many of these men, women and children are subjected to inhumane violence. Once again, I ask the international community to keep its promise to seek common, concrete and lasting solutions for the management of migratory flows in Libya and throughout the Mediterranean,” the pontiff said. “And how much those who are rejected suffer. There are some real concentration camps there.
“It is necessary to put an end to the return of migrants to unsafe countries and to give priority to the rescue of human lives at sea with rescue devices and predictable disembarkation, to guarantee them dignified living conditions, alternatives to detention, regular migration routes and access to asylum,” he added.
On Sunday, more than 500 migrants either reached Italy or were trying to. Of those, 128 migrants were identified by the NGO Alarm Phone, which facilitates rescues at sea.
The group called on a nearby merchant vessel to intervene to save around 60 people on a rubber boat that was deflating. A further 68 people were on a boat near Malta which had called the NGO in distress. Alarm Phone tweeted that Maltese authorities had been involved in either a rescue or push back as the EU border control agency Frontex flew a surveillance flight overhead.
MSF also tweeted that another 296 people had been rescued overnight and were safely on their rescue ship waiting to be assigned a safe port in Italy or Malta to disembark.
The Guardia di Finanza also confirmed that it had intercepted a sailboat with around 100 migrants who were then escorted to San Gregorio in Puglia. It is not known where that vessel originated.
Salvini tweeted that Italy’s interior minister Luciana Lamorgese had better be warned that “everyone is landing in Italy” while she is in Brussels.
The former interior minister also lashed out at a Sicilian prosecutor who had named Richard Gere as a witness in a trial against him for kidnapping 147 migrants in 2019 but blocking their disembarkation. Gere had delivered food and water to the vessel and will testify about conditions he observed. Salvini’s next hearing is December 17.
It is unclear when Gere will testify.