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Migrants 'must not be sent back' to danger, says Pope Francis

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By AP
Migrants rest on the deck of the rescue ship Sea Watch-3 in Italian waters at the Mediterranean, near Sicily island, Italy, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.
Migrants rest on the deck of the rescue ship Sea Watch-3 in Italian waters at the Mediterranean, near Sicily island, Italy, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.   -   Copyright  Valeria Mongelli/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Pope Francis on Sunday made an impassioned plea to end the practice of returning migrants rescued at sea to Libya and other unsafe countries where they suffer “inhumane violence".

He called on the international community to find concrete ways to manage migratory flows in the Mediterranean Sea.

“I express my closeness to the thousands of migrants, refugees and others in need of protection in Libya,'' Francis said in remarks to the public in St. Peter's Square. ”I never forget you, I hear your cry and I pray for you."

“So many of these men, women and children are subject to inhumane violence,'' he added. ”Yet again again I ask the international community to keep the promises to search for common solutions that are concrete and lasting to manage the migratory flows in Libya and all the Mediterranean."

“How they suffer, those who are sent back” after rescue at sea, the pope said. Detention facilities in Libya, he said “are true concentration camps.”

“We need to stop sending back (migrants) to unsafe countries and to give priority to the saving of human lives at sea with regular protocols of rescue and disembarking, to guarantee them dignified conditions of life, alternatives to detention, regular paths of migration and access to asylum procedures," Francis said.

Italy and Malta have come under criticism by human rights advocates for leaving migrants aboard crowded rescue boats before assigning them a safe port.

U.N. refugee agency officials and human rights organizations have long denounced the conditions of detention centers for migrants in Libya, citing practices of beatings, rape and forms of torture and insufficient food.