Pope denounces ‘gulag’ living conditions of migrants during Cyprus visit

Pope Francis, at an emotional meeting with migrants, said on Friday he had a responsibility to tell the hard truth about the suffering of refugees, many held in conditions he compared to those in Nazi and Soviet camps.

Francis, who has made defence of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his pontificate, spoke at the end of his second day in Cyprus, where he met migrants, some of whom will be among 50 to be re-located to Italy on his initiative over the coming months.

Departing from a prepared speech, he said many people were still asking how Nazi concentration camps or Stalinist gulags in the post-war period could have been allowed to exist.

“Brothers and sisters, this is happening today,” he said, citing conditions for refugees in camps in Libya and elsewhere to where they are forcibly returned when expelled from Europe.

“They have ended up in concentration camps where women are sold, men are tortured and (people) enslaved,” he said.

After listening to some of the migrants’ stories, the pope said: “The worst thing is that we are getting used to it…. This indifference is a grave disease for which there is no antibiotic.”

The 84-year-old pontiff said he regretted having to speak about such unpleasant things but added: “It is my responsibility to open eyes.”

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