Pope Francis plans to arrange the transfer of a number of migrants to Rome during his visit to Cyprus next week, Cypriot officials said Friday, in the second such gesture by the pontiff.
Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos told reporters that the pope, making a December 2-4 visit to the island, wants to arrange for an unspecified number of migrants to be relocated.
In 2013, the pope took back to Rome three Syrian families from Greek island of Lesbos, then the main point of entry for migrants into Europe.
He is returning to Lesbos next month when he flies on to Greece after Cyprus.
“This is an act that proves the solidarity of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to our fellow human beings in need,” Pelekanos said of the pope’s new gesture.
It also “confirms the Vatican recognizes the problem facing the Republic of Cyprus today, due to increased migration flows”, Pelekanos said.
He reiterated the eastern Mediterranean island’s call for “a fairer distribution between EU member states to alleviate the problem in the front line countries”
European Union member Cyprus says it has a “migration crisis” and seeks to suspend asylum applications to those entering illegally.
It claims the highest number of first-time asylum applications among all 27 EU members relative to its population of one million.
The island also accuses Turkey of orchestrating the crisis by allowing migrants to cross over from the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the north in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the then ruling junta in Athens.
Migrant flows recorded in Cyprus in 2021 are 38 percent higher than for all of last year.
Cyprus has called for the relocation of asylum seekers to other EU member states and the repatriation of asylum seekers to their countries of origin.