ROME (AP) – Pope Francis denounced the unspeakable “hell” of migrant detention camps in Libya by celebrating a mass on Wednesday for asylum seekers who risk their lives for a better future.
Wednesday marked the seventh anniversary of Francisco’s visit to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa to meet with migrants who had arrived in smugglers’ boats from Libya. The trip on July 8, 2013 was the first pastoral visit outside of Rome after his election, and it was at Lampedusa that Francis first delivered his often repeated call for an end to the “globalization of indifference” with which migrants are received worldwide.
Francis repeated that phrase in his homily on Wednesday in the chapel of the Vatican hotel where he lives. Last year, it celebrated the anniversary with a mass at St. Peter’s Basilica attended by asylum seekers and people caring for them, but this year the pandemic restrictions forced it to limit attendance to staff at the Vatican’s migration office. .
Francisco recalled that he heard stories of the suffering of the migrants he met in Lampedusa in 2013, but upon returning to the Vatican he realized that his translator had minimized the stories of the migrants.
The translator “gave me the distilled version,” said Francisco, explaining that this often happens when the world hears muted versions of the war and suffering in Libya.
“You cannot imagine the hell you live there,” he said of the Libyan detention camps, which he called “lagers,” like the Nazi concentration camps.
Human rights advocacy groups have documented cases of rape, torture and other abuses at migrant detention centers in Libya where they are taken when the Libyan coast guard catches them at sea.
To contain the flow of migrants, Italy and the European Union have invested millions of euros in the Libyan coast guard to increase their ability to patrol its coasts. But migrant advocates say this makes them complicit in abuse in the camps.