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HomeGlobalRefugees: Pope Francis returns to Lesbos five years after his historic visit

Refugees: Pope Francis returns to Lesbos five years after his historic visit

Francisco returns next Sunday to Lesbos, during his trip to Cyprus and Greece and five years after the historic and exciting visit in which he brought in his plane twelve Syrian refugees who inaugurated the humanitarian corridors program and who today have built a new life in Rome.

On April 16, 2016, the pope took a day trip to the Greek island when it was the symbol of migration. Now the number of refugees living in his camp it is much less, but it remains an emblematic place from where a new appeal from the pontiff to the solidarity of Europe is awaited.

Sources close to the organization of the trip assure that, although they offered Francisco to go to other refugee camps, much closer and more accessible, he insisted on traveling to Lesbos, despite the fact that you will only spend an hour on the island after five round trips.

Nour and her daughter are one of the Syrian families who traveled with the Pope to Rome, and today they are fully integrated. Photo: AFP

His first trip had started by defining the refugees and migrants from the Moria camp as protagonists of the “greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War”. And in the end, he surprised everyone when they got on the plane with him three families from the Kara Tepe camp.

A historical gesture

It was one of the historical moments of this pontificate, which was conceived in just a few days and among many difficulties and with which they were inaugurated the “humanitarian corridors” of the Community of San Egidio which has since brought over from Lebanon and Lesbos to more than 5,000 refugees, especially Syrians and Afghans.

On this trip, the pope has already expressed his wish that fifty refugees in Cyprus travel to Rome Thanks to those corridors, although their arrival will take place weeks after the visit, sources from the Cypriot Embassy to the Holy See confirmed.

Five years ago, however everything was kept secretOnly four days before the visit, Daniela Pompei, head of the migrant service of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome, and the volunteer Cecilia Pani traveled to Lesbos without anyone knowing that the pope wanted to bring several families from the countryside.

Pani says that the Pope’s decision to want to take the families it was known only that same week.

“The pope was on a Saturday and we arrived on Tuesday. Four days to choose families and with the difficulty of not being able to tell anyone, neither to the institutions of the field, nor to the governmental ones. People were chosen Muslim, Orthodox, ChristianBut then some families could not be admitted to the trip due to recent agreements with Turkey and we had to leave them there, “he explains.

View of the field of Kara Tepé in Lesbos, which Pope Francis will visit next Sunday.  Photo: EFE

View of the field of Kara Tepé in Lesbos, which Pope Francis will visit next Sunday. Photo: EFE

The volunteer emphasizes that they were days of enormous tension because they did not even have permits to visit the field, so in the end it was their leaders who selected above all “families with small children who had suffered, Syrian families because they were the ones that were the most in the field. field and because they came from a country in the middle of war “.

In the hours before the flight, they had to “hide” in various areas of the airport so that no one would see them and avoid problems, while the Pope wanted at all costs to get on and off the plane with them to give a strong message. “So much so that at the beginning they had already gone up and they were made to go down and they got a tremendous scare because they thought something had happened,” he reveals.

A new life

Inside the plane, the pope went to visit them several times. “Did you like the lasagna?” Francisco asked them, trying to make them feel at home.

They were Hasan and Nour, 31, and their 2-year-old son, Riyadh, from Damascus; Ramy and his wife Suhila, 50, who fled Deir Ezzor with their 3 children: Al Quds, 5, Abdel Majid, 16, and Rachid, 18; together with Osama and Wafaa, aged 37 and 30 respectively, from Zamalka, a village in Damascus, with their children Omar and Masa aged 6 and 8.

Now they live in Rome they have work, a new life. “The families are happily integrated and self-sufficient. Nour’s was the one that had the most facilities, having studied in Europe and already knowing English and French.

She is a biologist at the pediatric hospital Bambino Gesù and also her husband is an architect: he works for a film production company and they live in a rental house on the outskirts of Rome “, explains Pani.

But also the other families, who although they started with fewer resources, already live independently, “with lower rents thanks to the contacts of San Egidio, but they already work in service cooperatives for example and one of the young people has graduated and wants to study Nursing”.

“Quds is an extraordinary girl, when the pope invited them to eat after their arrival, he gave her a drawing of a butterfly and said: ‘You are like this butterfly because you have brought us to Rome with your wings,” he said.

By Cristina Cabrejas, EFE



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