During his weekly general audience, Pope Francis said he was following “with concern” the news of hundreds of immigrants who perished in the Mediterranean Sea this week. “I wish to assure you of my prayers for the victims, and encourage once again solidarity in order that no one lacks the necessary relief,” the Pope said Feb. 11. The United Nations' refugee agency, UNHCR, says that some 300 migrants are feared dead after their boat sank in the Mediterranean. Survivors said they had left Libya late last week. The Italian government had launched the Mare Nostrum operation to patrol the sea to aid ships carrying migrants after 366 people died off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013. The program was disbanded a year later, taken over by the European Union program known as Triton. According to the BBC, Triton is less equipped than its predecessor in rescue operations, responding when lives are in immediate danger but being unable to pre-empt trouble on international waters. In a Feb. 10 interview with Vatican Radio, Secretary General of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, (COMECE) Father Patrick Daly said “there is a growing sense of urgency within Europe about a EU-wide, Europe-wide commitment to help solve the refugee problem.” Fr. Daly expressed “a more coordinated policy in this area, but also the EU as a whole must do all that it can to help the countries of transit from which many of our migrants come.” Pope Francis visited the migrants of Lampedusa months ahead of the 2013 tragedy, thanking them for their “solidarity with migrants,” while condemning the “globalization of indifference” which “makes us all 'unnamed'.” UNHCR says more than 218,000 migrants cross the Mediterranean into Italy in 2014, with some 3,500 people losing their lives on the journey.
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