Pope Benedict spoke of the 'emergency' of illegal immigration in his Sunday address to the faithful, and encouraged politicians to tackle the problem. Saturday, Italy and Libya signed a historic agreement that is hoped will improve controls on the Libyan coastline to reduce the number of immigrants attempting the Mediterranean crossing to Italy. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.
Pope Benedict spoke of the emergency of illegal immigration just days after more than 70 migrants were reported missing off the coast of Malta. It is the latest tragedy at sea of desperate people attempting the crossing from the African coastline in search of a better life.
The pope urged European countries and those that are destination counties for immigrants to study and develop initiatives and structures that respond more adequately to the needs of illegal immigrants.
Migration, the pope said, is a phenomenon that has existed from the dawn of humanity.
Addressing the faithful gathered at the papal summer residence in Castelgandolfo, he added that the emergency that illegal immigration has become in our times requires solidarity and at the same time effective political responses.
The pope said that a sense of responsibility must also be shown by the countries of origin, not only because their citizens are involved, but also to remove the causes of irregular migration.
The pope also urged migrants to be aware of the very grave risks they run in the search to better their conditions as well as the duty to follow the law.
Pope Benedict was speaking a day after Italy and Libya signed an historic agreement under which Italy agreed to pay five-billion dollars in compensation for colonial misdeeds during its decades-long rule of the North African country.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the agreement would also help in limiting the number of departures of illegal immigrants from the Libyan coast. Italy will fund 500-million dollars worth of electronic monitoring devices on the Libyan coastline.
Thousands every year attempt the crossing in makeshift boats and many never make it to their destination. The Italian government has long tried to find a way to improve cooperation with the Libyan authorities to stop these crossings.