Pope Francis calls for protection of migrant from ‘hands of cruel traffickers’

Pope Francis reiterated calls for a humane approach to tackling migration on Saturday as he returned from a trip to France which saw him criticize “belligerent nationalisms” in Europe.

Speaking to journalists on board the papal plane on the return flight from Marseille to Rome, the head of the Catholic Church said migrants should be “welcomed, accompanied, promoted, and integrated” in European countries.

“Migrants need to be welcomed, accompanied, promoted, and integrated. If you cannot integrate them in your country, then accompany them and integrate them in their country, but don’t leave them in the hands of these cruel traffickers in people. The theme of migrants is this today. Because we send them back and they end up in the hands of these unscrupulous people that hurt them. They sell them, they exploit them,” Pope said.

Immigration issues dominated his 27-hour trip to Marseilles, a French port that for centuries has been a crossroads of cultures and religions.

According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, about 178,500 migrants – of which nearly 130,000 have arrived in Italy – have come to Europe in the year to date via the Mediterranean, while about 2,500 died or went missing on the way.