Pope Francis is calling for more international help to deal with the growing number of migrants fleeing instability in Africa.
Following his meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Saturday, the pope said it is clear that the scope of the migrant issue requires much greater international involvement. He also expressed his gratitude to Italy for "welcoming" the migrants who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama and visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi discussed the problem of migrants during their talks in Washington. Renzi said Italy does not want the Mediterranean Sea to become a cemetery and has already taken a leadership role to confront that humanitarian crisis. It is also the responsibility of all counties in the region — Europe, North Africa and the Middle East — to stop human trafficking in close cooperation with the United Nations, he said.
Obama said countries in the region need to coordinate political action to counter terrorism and prevent Libya from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Thousands of migrants — most from war-ravaged areas of Africa and the Middle East — make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in hopes of reaching Europe. Humanitarian groups estimate around 500 have died this year as a result of hunger, thirst and exposure in overcrowded and poorly equipped vessels.
Italian police have also arrested 15 African Muslims suspected of throwing 12 Christians to their deaths from a migrant boat in the Mediterranean Sea.
Police in the city of Palermo said that they were arrested on charges of multiple homicide motivated by religious hatred.
European Union officials say the flow of migrants is likely to increase in coming months as the weather gets warmer.