“Refugees are not numbers; they are people who have faces, names, stories and need to be treated as such,” Pope Francis tweeted this over the weekend, during his moving tour of the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. He told the displaced “you are not alone,” and put added weight to his message by taking three Syrian Muslim families back to Rome with him.
The Pope’s action came in light of the new European Union order to deport refugees now living in Greece back to Turkey. According to USA Today, “the deal stipulates anyone arriving clandestinely on Greek islands on or after March 20 will be returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. For every Syrian sent back, the EU will take another Syrian directly from Turkey for resettlement in Europe.”
Nour Essa, a Palestinian-Syrian scientist, is one of the fortunate refugees who will be relocated along with her 3-year-old son and husband to Rome. “We heard of the EU-Turkey deal which would be implemented on March 20 and decided despite the bad weather to get on one of the boats to Lesbos,” she said. “We were very lucky: Friends of ours that were living with us in Turkey that came the next day were not given papers and are still in jail in Moria camp. Instead, we will be refugees in Italy!”
According to a Vatican transcript, Pope Francis further commented: “I have always said that building walls is not a solution. We saw walls during the last century and they did not resolve anything. We must build bridges. Bridges are built with intelligence, with dialogue, with integration.”