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Pope asks countries to welcome migrants 

The boat people

Vatican City: Pope Francis has urged countries to welcome and respect migrants and refugees and not treat them as “pawns on the chessboard of humanity.”

In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Pope said that there should be a change in attitude on the part of host countries.

The 100th World Day of Migrants and Refugees would be celebrated on January 19, 2014.

“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity,” he said in the message, which is sent to government and international institutions such as the United Nations.

“They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.”

He condemned “slave labor” and trafficking as other products of a “throwaway culture.”

Francis has often used the term to denounce a modern society where people who are not productive, such as the elderly, are neglected and cast off as if they were objects no longer useful, reported

The pope, whose ancestors left Italy for Argentina in the early 20th century and lived through the Great Depression, called for “the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions” in the approach to migration.

“Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase,” he said.

In his message, Pope Francis decried companies and businesses that exploited migrants and refugees, many of whom work for low day wages in agriculture and in illegal factories in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

“Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement. Nowadays, ‘slave labor’ is common currency,” he said.

In July, Francis chose Lampedusa, the tiny island off Sicily that has been the first port of safety for untold thousands of migrants crossing by sea from North Africa seeking a better life in Europe, as the place for his first trip outside Rome to draw attention to the plight of refugees.

Earlier this month, when he visited a refugee centre in Rome, The Pope said disused church buildings should be used to house asylum-seekers.

He has been a frequent critic of globalisation and on Sunday made one of his strongest attacks on the global economic system, saying it could no longer be based “on a god called money.”

In his message on Tuesday, the Pope said migrants and refugees were also suffering from the effects of globalization.

“Development cannot be reduced to economic growth alone, often attained without a thought for the poor and the vulnerable,” he said in the message.