Leaving migrants to die at sea is akin to abortion or euthanasia, says Pope Francis

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Civilisation is not just about technological advancements but the ability to protect life, says the pontiff

By Andrea Vogt, Verona

2:58PM BST 31 May 2015

Letting migrants die at sea was an “attack against life” akin to abortion or euthanasia, Pope Francis has said.

Decrying victims of abortion, euthanasia, terrorism, trafficking and other travesties, the pontiff told members of the Italian Science and Life Association on Saturday that progress in civilisation should not just be measured technological advancements, but also by the ability to “protect life during the most fragile stages.”

“Abortion is an attack against life. Leaving our brothers on boats to die in the Sicilian channel is an attack against life,” the pontiff said.

His comments came as reception centres across Sicily and southern mainland Italy struggle to host the latest wave of more than 5,000 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean at the weekend, according to Frontex, the European Union’s border agency.

Pope Francis during a meeting with participants in the Children’s Train event at the Vatican on Saturday (AFP)

During 22 separate operations carried out by naval vessels and merchant ships, 4,200 migrants were saved in 24 hours.

Authorities were expected to carry out autopsies in coming days of the 17 migrants found dead by Italian Navy rescuers in order to determine cause of death. The most recent fatalities brings the death toll of men, women and children to die or go missing at sea this year to nearly 1,800, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

So far, approximately 45,000 migrants have landed in Italy. One of them, a 92-year old Syrian grandfather named Abdel Fahim Taktak, told Italian authorities that he, his son, his son’s wife and his three small grandchildren reached Egypt from Syria by truck, then arrived in Italy five days and six nights after debarking by boat from an Egyptian beach.

Others, especially sub-Saharan African workers, report being forced onto boats from Libya, often after months of abuse and imprisonment along the treacherous migrant route north.

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