Grace and Daniel have been stuck in Cyprus’ buffer zone for more than six months after they fled Cameroon. / Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
As a sign of Pope Francis’ concern for migrants, the Vatican announced Friday that it is helping to arrange the transfer of about 12 refugees from Cyprus to Italy.
Among the migrants that Pope Francis is helping to bring to Italy are Grace, 24, and Daniel, 20, Christians who fled Cameroon after schools were shut down due to the Anglophone Crisis, provoked by tensions between the English-speaking minority and French-speaking majority.
The two migrants met after paying the same smuggler to help them cross from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus to the Greek-speaking south, where they hoped to find asylum in the European Union.
“We were misled,” Grace said. The smuggler told them where to cross over the 16-foot-high wall that divides the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, but they were promptly taken into custody by the United Nations forces stationed in the demilitarized buffer zone.
“The most scary moment in my life so far,” said Grace, who injured her leg after jumping from the wall.
Since crossing over the wall last May, Grace and Daniel have been stuck in the buffer zone that divides Cyprus, which is also called “no man’s land,” living in a tent for more than six months.
In an interview with EWTN News ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Cyprus, Grace said that faith in God helped to give her strength in the difficult times in Cyprus. She hopes for a better future in which she can find work.
Daniel, a Catholic, said that he would like to be able to continue his studies once he receives asylum in Europe.
“That’s what is keeping us strong because, like our faith, we believe that in any circumstances that you find yourself, never give up in life, so that saying has been keeping us strong and I believe God can do something,” Grace said.
Elizabeth Kassinis, the executive manager of Caritas Cyprus, told EWTN that the numbers of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus “have been really dramatic.”
“Cyprus right now receives more asylum seekers per capita than anywhere in Europe,” Kassinis said.
“It is a frontline state … all of the local systems are overwhelmed,” she added.
Recently, Kassinis has noted the arrival of people from Lebanon, which is in the midst of an economic crisis, in addition to the flow of migrants from Syria and African countries.
The Caritas Cyprus migrant services center in Nicosia receives about 300 people requesting assistance each day.
“Most of the numbers that we’re getting now are people who’ve just arrived,” she said.
Pope Francis is currently in Cyprus, where he met on Dec. 3 with a group of migrants, who shared their stories with the pope in an ecumenical prayer service in Nicosia.
“It is he, the Lord Jesus, whom we encounter in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters. In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage … but at the same time … in the face of the migrant journeying to a goal, to hope, to greater human companionship,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis greets a migrant at a welcoming hub near Cesena, Italy on Oct. 1, 2017. / L’Osservatore Romano.
Vatican City, Nov 29, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis could reportedly help to bring up to 50 migrants to Italy as part of his trip to Cyprus and Greece this week.
Cypriot government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said that the Vatican wanted to arrange the transfer of migrants currently in Cyprus to Rome, Reuters reported on Nov. 26.
“This is a tangible expression of solidarity by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to people in need, affirming that the Vatican recognizes the problem that the Republic of Cyprus faces today because of the increased migratory flows and the need for a fair distribution among EU member states,” Pelekanos said, according to Reuters.
Pope Francis will depart for the Mediterranean island of Cyprus this Thursday for a five-day visit that will also take him to Greece. The trip is expected to highlight the plight of migrants seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.
The last time that Pope Francis visited Greece, in 2016, he brought three Syrian refugee families from the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos back with him to Rome.
Among the refugees relocated with the pope’s help was Majid Alshakarji, who escaped the Syrian civil war at the age of 15.
Five years later, Alshakarji is now studying at a university in Rome to become a dentist and volunteers with the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, helping to welcome new refugees to Italy.
“We have been allowed to have a new life in a new country … It is a beautiful experience,” he told CNA in 2020.
Sant’Egidio helped to organize the arrival of 70 Syrian refugees in Rome on Nov. 29.
The refugees, who had been living in refugee camps in Lebanon, came to Italy through the humanitarian corridors promoted by the Catholic movement in coordination with the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and the Italian government.
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged governments not to “lose sight of the human face of migration.”
Most recently, in a message on Nov. 29 marking the 70th anniversary of the International Organization for Migration, the pope decried the “double standard” that places economic interests over “the needs and dignity of the human person.”
“On the one hand, in the markets of upper-middle-income countries, migrant labor is in high demand and welcomed as a way to compensate for the lack of it. On the other, migrants are generally rejected and subject to resentful attitudes by many of their host communities,” he said.
“This tendency was particularly evident during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when many of the ‘essential’ workers were migrants, but they were not granted the benefits of the COVID-19 economic aid programs or even access to basic health care and immunization,” the pope added.
The pope’s message to the U.N. organization was read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a video message.
Pope Francis underlined that “we must never forget that these are not statistics, but real people whose lives are at stake.”
“Rooted in its centuries-long experience, the Catholic Church and its institutions will continue their mission of welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating people on the move,” he said.