Pope Francis to relocate 50 migrants from Cyprus to Italy: Vatican

Pope Francis to relocate 50 migrants from Cyprus to Italy: Vatican

Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at Paul VI Audience Hall, on November 24, 2021 in the Vatican. VATICAN CITY, Nov 26, Reuters - Pope Francis has arranged to have 50 migrants from Cyprus relocated to Italy to mark his trip to the Mediterranean island next week, a Vatican source said on Friday.

The source said that the 50 will be relocated after the trip, which begins on Thursday, but most likely not before Christmas because logistical reasons.

In Cyprus, a spokesman said Marios Pelekanos, the Vatican has expressed an intention to re-settle a number of migrants from the island to Rome, but gave no details.

He said that this is a tangible expression of solidarity by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to people in need, as well as the fact that the Vatican recognises the problem that the Republic of Cyprus faces today because of the increased migratory flows and the need for fair distribution among EU member states.

The East Mediterranean island, the closest European Union country to the volatile Middle East, says it has been inundated with arrivals in recent years.

It says that migrant arrivals have risen by 38% this year compared to the whole of 2020.

Many arrive through a porous green line - the legacy of a 1974 ceasefire after a Turkish invasion following a brief Greek backed coup - which divides the island into a Turkish Cypriot north and internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south.

More than 9,000 people had arrived on the route in the first 10 months of 2021, with 10,868 arriving in the first 10 months of 2021. Many of its asylum seekers are from war-torn Syria, but arrivals have risen from sub-Saharan Africa in recent years.

Francis is expected to visit Cyprus on December 2 -- 4 before he spends two days in Greece, including a day trip to the Greek island of Lesbos, which hosts many foreign migrants.

Francis, who has made his defence of the migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy, visited the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos in 2016 and returned with a dozen Syrian refugees.

The camp of Moria was destroyed last year by a fire and replaced with another camp called Mavrovouni.