Pope to pray for migrants in Lampedusa visit

Pope to pray for migrants in Lampedusa visit
Pope Francis. Gabriel Bouys/AFP
Pope Francis will travel to the Italian island of Lampedusa next Monday, to pray for boat migrants who have died trying to make the crossing into Europe, the Vatican said in a statement on Monday.

The pontiff "intends to pray for those who have lost their lives at sea, visit the survivors and refugees there…and appeal for these brothers and sisters in extreme need to be cared for," it said.

In mid-June, seven immigrants reportedly drowned during an attempt to cross to Italy by gripping on to a large tuna fishing cage being towed by a trawler.

Each year, thousands of illegal migrants attempt to cross the Mediterranean in often overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels in a bid to reach the European Union.

Almost eight thousands migrants landed on the Italian coast in the first six months of the year, almost twice the number that arrived in the same period in 2012.

A large part – over 3,600 of them – washed up on Lampedusa, the closest island to the coast of north Africa and a favoured destination for migrants heading to Europe illegally.

In June The Local spoke to experts about who bears responsibility for migrants arriving on Lampedusa.

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