Italian refugee group praises pope's Lampedusa visit

Calls on govt, EU to reform migrant laws

Italian refugee group praises pope's Lampedusa visit

(see related) Rome, July 8 - The Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) on Monday embraced the pope's memorial to migrants who have died in the Mediterranean while seeking passage by boat to Italy or Europe and endorsed the pontiff's "very stern warning to policymakers and public opinion, condemning indifference". Pope Francis made his first visit away from the Vatican on Monday to Lampedusa, a southern Italian island which receives thousands of migrants every spring and summer, who disembark from the North African coast. CIR estimates that more than 18,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean over the last 15 years. "We are convinced that the pope's gesture, in addition to its human significance and expression of solidarity, has a deep political content that the Italian government and European governments cannot ignore," said CIR President Savino Pezzotta. "CIR renews its invitation to the Italian government and parliament to change the Bossi-Fini law, to implement Constitutional provisions on asylum and push the EU to take charge of the problem," Pezzotta continued, making reference to a 1992 law passed under a centre-right government led by Silvio Berlusconi that provided for the immediate expulsion of illegal migrants to their countries of origin or the detention of unidentified migrants in holding camps. The law provides for issuing visas in cases migrants prove they have jobs waiting for them or have a right to political asylum.

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