The Vatican has taken in several Syrian refugees over the last few months. In April of 2016, Pope Francis took 12 Muslim Syrians from three different families into the Vatican as refugees. In June, he welcomed nine more Syrians as Vatican City refugees, seeming very symbolic to many individuals throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The refugees that were brought into the Vatican were very grateful for the Pope’s “gesture of hope” and some even went on to call him a savior.
Being a refugee is difficult but being a refugee in Vatican City is not only difficult but also very interesting due to the uniqueness of the situation. Here are 10 facts about Vatican City refugees:
- The Greek island of Lesbos is where many Syrian refugees are being held and where the Pope took in a portion of the refugees in Vatican City. Most of the refugees on the island of Lesbos feel as though they are trapped as prisoners in the neglected detention center. They are also constantly at risk of being sent back to Turkey due to a new deportation deal between the E.U. and Turkey.
- The refugees the Pope took from Greece on his visit in April consisted of three families whose homes had been bombed in the Syrian war. After bringing these refugees to the Vatican, the Pope declared that he wanted to make a gesture of welcome for the refugees.
- Even though many thought the Pope’s action in taking in these refugees were on a whim, his actions were actually carefully thought out and had involved a large amount of planning and paperwork for not only the Vatican and Italy, but also Greece.
- The Pope’s refugees will all be taken care of by the Catholic charitable association, Sant’Egidio, which will help care for the families and assist them in finding work.
- When questioned about why these specific families were chosen to be taken from Greece to the Vatican, the Pope did not explain, but instead simply stated that: “They are guests of the Vatican.”
- Beginning in the summer of 2015, thousands of migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, journeyed into Lesbos after paying smugglers to make the brief sea journey from Turkey. This smuggling of refugees caused the E.U. to have a political crisis which, in turn, led several countries to either restrict or completely close their borders.
- The number of migrants coming into Greece has fallen significantly since Turkey agreed to take back all of the individuals coming into the Greek islands for billions of dollars in E.U. cash. Over 1.1 million people have covertly crossed from Turkey to Greece since the start of 2015, and hundreds have drowned in this journey.
- In 2015, the Pope appealed to all Catholic diocese in Europe to take in a refugee family. Unfortunately, the Pope’s appeal was ignored by the majority of individuals across Europe.
- The Pope continued to fight for refugees when he offered special praise for ordinary Greeks who have taken refugees into their homes. Other religious leaders have called upon the E.U. to provide more help for Greece in this migrant crisis.
- Currently, there are 20 Syrian refugees living in the Vatican, which consists of 1,000 inhabitants.
While the Pope has clearly been doing his part in the Syrian refugee crisis, the issue has not been solved. However, using the Pope as a model by taking in refugees to the Vatican and treating them with respect, many individuals in Europe and around the world should have a better outlook on Syrian refugees and how they should be treated.
– Bella Chaffey