Pope Francis on migration: 'We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a cemetery'

REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Pope Francis has today called for a "united response" to the arrival of migrants in Europe, and urged for immediate action to increase protections.

Speaking before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Pope said: "We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery.

"The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging... solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions."

Recent figures reveal that more than 3,000 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year – double the number in 2013.

The International Organisation for Migration has labelled Europe the most dangerous destination for 'irregular' migrants, and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a joint statement in September, calling for a "comprehensive and collective" EU response to the crisis.

Amnesty spokesman Nicolas J Beger said: "As the EU builds its walls higher and higher, migrants and refugees are increasingly taking to the Mediterranean waters in a desperate bid to reach safety and sanctuary in Europe. Tragically they are increasingly paying the highest cost, losing their lives at sea."

Pope Francis today echoed that call, asking leaders to establish a Europe that "revolves not around the economy but around the sacredness of the human person". He is known to be passionate about the cause; one of his first official acts as Pope was to visit Lampedusa, an Italian island where 300 migrants drowned last year.

Comparing Europe to a grandmother who is "no longer fertile and vibrant", he insisted that more jobs are needed, as well as better conditions for workers.

"The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions," he said.

"This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development."

The Pope also accused European leaders of exploitation, something he said was an "inevitable consequence of throwaway culture and uncontrolled consumerism".

"Economic questions dominate political debate, human beings are reduced to cogs in a machine, items of consumption to be exploited," he said.

"The result is that when human life is no longer useful to the machine, they are discarded when not wanted, the old, the unemployed, the children killed before they are born. It is a great mistake when technology is allowed to take over, there is a confusion between ends and means."