Madrid, Jan. 6, 2019: Pope Francis on January 6 appealed to European leaders to show concrete solidarity to 49 migrants stranded aboard a pair of rescue vessels.
The Pope, addressing faithful in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, noted that the migrants, rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, have been waiting for days for permission for a safe port to let them disembark. The crowd applauded his words.
As policy, Italy’s populist government has refused to let private aid vessels disembark migrants, rescued from human traffickers’ unseaworthy boats, in Italian ports.
Malta is also refusing to let the boats dock or the migrants disembark, but has allowed the two boats to enter its waters for fresh supplies. Thirty-two of the migrants were rescued on Dec. 22; the others, days later.
Pope Francis said he was directing a “fervent appeal” to the leaders to “show concrete solidarity toward these persons.”
Spain’s maritime rescue service says it saved 549 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
The service says its craft intercepted six small boats carrying a total of 350 migrants on January 5 in waters east of the Strait of Gibraltar.
The following day, another 199 migrants were pulled from five different boats, including two tiny inflatable boats meant for small bodies of water or near the beach. One of those tiny recreational boats was carrying four children. The other was packed with 10 adults.
The United Nations refugee agency estimates that 2,262 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean in 2018.
The European Union’s border agency says that 57,000 illegal immigrants reached Spain last year, double the figure for 2017. Overall, unauthorized border crossings into Europe hit a five-year low.