Pope Francis has urged the international community to help Italy put an end to the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.
The Pope’s call came as the latest tragedy unfolded on Sunday when a boat reportedly carrying 700 migrants capsized. Only 28 survivors have been rescued and the bodies of the 24 victims found so far have been taken to Malta.
Speaking after the Regina Coeli prayer to thousands of people in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, the Pope made a “heartfelt appeal” for more to be done to help the migrants, many of whom are fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East.
“(The migrants) are men and women like us, our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war. They were looking for a better life,” he said.
“I make a heartfelt appeal to the international community to react decisively and quickly to see to it that such tragedies are not repeated.”
Pope Francis made a similar appeal on Saturday after a meeting with the new Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, at the Vatican.
“It is evident that the proportions of the phenomenon demand much greater involvement. We must not tire in our attempts to solicit a more extensive response at the European and international level,” the pontiff said.
Mr Mattarella repeated Italy’s call for the European Union to make a “decisive intervention to stop this continuous loss of human life in the Mediterranean.”
He added: “These broken lives compromise the dignity of the international community and we are in danger of losing our humanity.”
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 31,500 migrants have arrived from north Africa so far this year with 218,000 estimated to have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014.
Last year, 3,500 migrants drowned attempting the crossing and since the start of 2015 a further 1,500 migrants are thought to have died.