ATHENS (Sputnik) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the Saturday visit of Pope Francis to the island of Lesbos, which has become a symbol of the acute migrant crisis in recent years, a historic and remarkable event.
"Your visit is a very important opportunity to emphasize the need to stop the war and organize legal routes for the people who leave their homes and seek a better future in Europe," Tsipras said, meeting the head of Catholic church at Lesbos airport on Saturday.
Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) 16 April 2016
The residents of the islands and the whole Greek people, facing great difficulties due to austerity measures, express solidarity with the refugees, the prime minister added.
"I believe your visit is a historic and significant event, and thank you for this initiative," Tsipras outlined.
The Pope’s visit to Lesbos comes as European countries continue to struggle with a massive migrant crisis, with millions of people from the Middle East, North Africa and beyond seeking to relocate to Europe.
More than 1.8 million migrants entered the European Union in 2015, according to the EU border management agency Frontex.