Pope Francis on Sunday urged governments and people to do more to help migrants and not see them as enemies, wearing a plastic ID bracelet used by asylum seekers to drive home his message.
Francis visited a drab refugee centre on the outskirts of Bologna known simply as “The Hub”. Run by a charity, it is home to about 1,000 asylum seekers, most of whom risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East.
There, they live in grey containers and other forms oftemporary housing while awaiting decisions on their asylumrequests to be moved to other towns in Italy.
Many of the refugees and migrants are without documents and all wear a plastic yellow bracelet. The pope wore one bearinghis name and the number 3900003 on his right wrist. It was given to him by an African refugee.
“Many who don’t know you are afraid of you,” he told them as a light drizzle fell. “That makes them think they have the right to judge (you) coldly and harshly,” he said.
He paid homage to those who “never arrived because they were eaten up by the desert or the sea”.
Some 600,000 impoverished migrants and refugees have arrivedin Italy in less than four years. In that time, more than 13,000 have died trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Francis, who has made defence of migrants and refugees a major plank of his papacy, also condemned internet trolling against foreigners, saying they had been subjected to “terrible phrases and insults.”
“If we look on our neighbours without mercy we risk that even God will look on us without mercy,” he said.
The pope’s defence of migrants, his second in less than a week, comes at a time of growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States and many European countries where far-rightparties have made in roads.
Last week, the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (Afd) party surged to third place in a nationalelection, tapping into public disquiet over the arrival of morethan a million