The city has the distinction of being the second most populous city after the capital Paris. Its population fabric is full of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. Its location on the northern shore of the Mediterranean makes it concerned with the issue of illegal immigration, with Europe witnessing two decades or more of large waves of displacement across the sea coming from the shores of the southern bank. These often end in dramatic drownings.
Pope Francis, who was elected by the College of Catholic Cardinals in the Vatican City in 2014, has never visited the French capital. This is at a time when France, despite its secular system, is considered a "Catholic" state by numerical standards, since the majority of French follow the Catholic doctrine. Pope Francis' choice of Marseille as the first city to visit in France was a strong message from the Vatican regarding the great migration challenge facing both shores of the Mediterranean. In particular, the pope has for many years defended a position opposing the strict policies of receiving migrants or refugees in European countries, which are witnessing shifts in their domestic policies caused by the rise to power of more far-right parties.
It is important to note that Pope Francis has called and constantly calls for granting facilities for the entry of migrants to Europe, considering that they are "not invaders", and that borders and doors must be opened to them, stressing the need to avoid considering shipwrecked people who ride the sea in boats as "transient events and numbers, but rather broken lives and dreams that have been destroyed." It also focuses on the need to renounce what it considers the "globalization of indifference"! All this at a time when several countries, including France, have begun to pass stricter laws regarding the admission of migrants.
According to the figures, the number of drowned migrants classified as illegal in a decade reached about 35,10 people, including a large proportion of women and children. That's about 2023 percent of the total numbers that used boats and boats from the shores of Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, and Morocco, and reached the shores of Europe. In 180 and last August, more than 2500,<> migrants arrived in Europe by sea. About <>,<> of them died, most of them by drowning.
These figures were considered shocking by Pope Francis, to the extent that he spoke in Marseille describing the Mediterranean and the tragedy of migrants with these words: "This majestic sea has turned into a great cemetery where human dignity is buried!"
But the Pope wanted his visit to Marseille to be an occasion to highlight the crisis of illegal immigrants, and their tragedy in human terms, as they try to escape the hardship of living in their home countries to Europe in search of a new life and a promising future. More voices are being raised in Europe criticizing what they see as government inaction toward them. Segments of European societies leaning towards right-wing parties see the rise in the number of immigrants as an existential threat to their national and European cultures and identities. In this context, and against the backdrop of the high number of boat arrivals to the small Italian island of Lampedusa, less than 150 kilometers from the coast of Tunisia, the European Union was quick to adopt a plan based on tightening controls on Europe's external borders and increasing the level of cooperation with the "corridor countries", namely Libya and Tunisia. And the signing of agreements with both Egypt and Morocco. Material assistance in exchange for these countries being strict in preventing migratory waves from their shores. Here, we do not rule out that Lebanon will be added to the list of countries that will benefit from aid after the Syrian displacement crisis worsened. Attempts to board the sea by boat to Europe have increased.
Pope Francis' visit to Marseille was an occasion to raise the standard of absorbing and welcoming migrants to Europe and giving priority to the human and moral dimension. But it will be very difficult for the European popular mood to take this message positively. Immigration has become legal or illegal, and with the rise of the hard right, it has become part of Europe's political struggle. The balance of power is strongly tilted towards the militancy camp!