A pair of Christian refugees from Syria said they were “let down” by the Pope, who had promised to take them from their refugee camp in Greece to the Vatican.
Roula and Malek Abo said that they were among the lucky 12 refugees to be taken to Rome, but they were told the following day that they couldn’t go, and that 3 Muslim families had taken their place.
— Michael (@Michael_0000) April 23, 2016
Roula, 22, and her brother arrived in Greece on April 1st, days after the controversial agreement between the EU and Turkey for the latter to take in new refugees that had arrived in the EU.
In the deal, new refugees arriving on EU shores would be transported to Turkey, who would receive more financial aid for its refugee camps.
“If they can do this for 12 people they can do it for more,” Roula told the Daily Mail. “If you have promised to take people back to Italy will something like registration papers stand in your way?”
The Vatican has refused to explain the process through which the refugees were picked, but attributed the move to the fact that the Christian refugees had arrived after March 20th, when the EU deal with Turkey was made.
“Our staff went to Lesbos and spoke with the people who were selected. But everything was decided by the Vatican,” said spokesperson Massimiliano Signifredi. “The question why the Pope took only Muslims is difficult to understand and he was suffering, I think, because he wanted to do something also for Christians as the chief of the Catholic Church. But he couldn’t because there is this international agreement [with the EU].”
A day before the Pope arrived at the refugee camp in Greece, the siblings had been approached by someone from the charity Sant’Egidio, who had told them that they would be taken to Rome.
“I was so excited to go to Italy – it was such a relief,” said Samir Hanna, from Damascus, who had also been promised refuge in Rome. ‘They offered me my future on a plate, and then 24 hours later they took it away.”
They siblings had left Qamishli, near the Syrian-Turkish border, in March out of fear for their lives.
‘They killed the Christians in Raqqa we heard, so of course we had to leave,” Roula said.
But they have their hopes up, and reuniting with the rest of their family in Germany remains a goal.