Pope Francis greeting migrants in Moria, Lesvos Island, Greece, on April 16, 2016 | Photo: EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE
Pope Francis greeting migrants in Moria, Lesvos Island, Greece, on April 16, 2016 | Photo: EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

A delegation from the Vatican met with refugees and migrants at the reception center in Moria, a village on the Greek island of Lesbos. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski promised: "The Catholic Church is ready to host refugees."

Three years after Pope Francis himself visited Moria, a Papal delegation from the Vatican arrived in Lesbos for a Papal visit on Friday. The group was headed by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, chief almoner of the Holy See; also in attendance was the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Hollerich. The Vatican representatives met with Lesbos mayor Spyros Galinos and the Moria center's governor, Yannis Balbakakis, for a tour of the site to meet with migrants and refugees. The officials also held talks regarding the ongoing refugee crisis in Greece and Europe in general.

'The Catholic Church is ready to host refugees'

"Pope Francis has not forgotten the refugee issue, especially here in Moria," Krajewski said. "Efforts are being made on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to try and open the doors of European countries for refugees stuck here in Greece. The Catholic Church itself is ready to host refugees." He added that the church was willing to help the Greek government find ways to ease the burden on the local population.

Extremely cramped 

There are currently close to 9,000 people crammed into the center in Moria which has the capacity for just 3,100. Most of the migrant population there have fled danger in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The asylum application process is usually painfully slow.

Many people, including vulnerable groups such as women and unaccompanied minors, are left with no choice but to stay in the camp for extended periods of time - some for over a year - living in squalid conditions. 

There has been a steady flow of refugee transfers to the mainland. But the number of new arrivals has been much higher; and people continue to travel to the Greek islands on boats from the Turkish coast.

Too many asylum seekers

Overall, it is estimated that Greece's population of asylum seekers will surpass the 90,000 mark by the end of 2019 at current rates. With its current systems and infrastructure, Greece's Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas recently conceded that the country only has the capacity to process 20,000 asylum applications every year. In 2018, Greece received more than three times as many (67,000 applications). 

During the visit to Moria, the Vatican pledged to support Greece's appeal to other European countries to help share this burden.

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