Pope Francis has described the Mediterranean Sea, which desperate refugees and migrants regularly attempt to traverse in the hope of a better life, the “largest cemetery in Europe.”
Francis, who frequently draws attention to the plight of refugees, made the remark in front of believers gathered in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday.
He also spoke about a new memorial installed in the Sicilian city of Syracuse, off which many migrants drowned in 2015 when the boat they were travelling in sank.
The Italian navy recovered the wreckage a year later, and it is now to serve as a tribute to the dead.
“May this symbol of many tragedies in the Mediterranean continue to appeal to the conscience of all,” the head of the Catholic Church said.
Again and again, migrants in small and unstable boats dare to make the perilous crossing to Europe from North Africa. The intended destination is often Italy.
According to UN figures, more than 670 migrants have already died in the central Mediterranean this year.