Migrants on Lesbos hope pope will 'take their voice to world'
Mytilene (Greece) (AFP) – Ahead of the pope's landmark visit to Greece, around 20 asylum-seekers from Mavrovouni camp were permitted to attend mass at Lesbos' sole Catholic church, socially distancing inside to worship together.
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Christian Tango, a 31-year-old Congolese worshipper said Saturday he "hopes the pope will take (refugees') voices to the world," as he entered Our Lady of the Assumption, built in 1843 by French Franciscans.
Like his fellow asylum-seekers on Lesbos, Tango is permitted to leave the camp just once a week but this week will exceptionally be allowed out twice, in order to meet Pope Francis on Sunday.
"The pope knows the reality of refugees very well, much better than European politicians and leaders," said the refugee, who lost his wife and eight-year-old daughter during his perilous journey to Greece.
Greek authorities have deployed 850 police officers to the island, strictly controlled access even to journalists and replaced 93 tents with shipping containers equipped with mains electricity.
The island became a symbol of the migrant crisis when thousands of migrants landed on the popular holiday island in 2015.
"Tomorrow is the best day of my life, I never thought that one day I would have the opportunity to see the Pope with my own eyes," said Berthe N'Goyo, a Cameroonian who arrived three months ago and is one of 10 migrants who will sing for the pontiff.
'Gathered in your love'
"We are gathered in your love," she sang.
"Faith allows me to move forward, and to overcome all the trials of my life, the exile, the voyage during which my boat overturned in the middle of the sea, the uncertainty of the future," she said.
The pope has made the plight of migrants in Europe a central theme of his visit to Greece.
"I hope that the Pope will carry our voice to the whole world and in particular to the European countries that must welcome refugees with more humanity," said Christian.
His two daughters, aged six and seven, rehearsed alongside other children a song in Lingala.
"Don't be afraid of us, my friend, because we are refugees," they sang.
Enice Kiaku, who has already spent two years on Lesbos, hopes that the Pope will be able to take her off the island.
"The conditions are very difficult in the camp, I am alone with two children," said the Congolese woman, who said she had "lost hope" her situation would improve.
During his previous visit in April 2016, Francis took twelve Syrian refugees back to the Vatican.
Far fewer migrants are now reaching Lesbos than in recent years and are accommodated in a hastily built site after the infamous Moria migrant camp, Europe's largest, was burnt down in September 2020.
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