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06 September 2015

Pope Calls on All of Europe’s Catholics to House Refugees - Netanyahu says will not allow Israel to be 'submerged' by refugees

VIENNA — Pope Francis on Sunday called on every parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary in Europe to shelter refugees fleeing “death from war and hunger,” adding that the Vatican’s two parishes would lead the way by taking in two families.

In a speech to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said it was not enough to say “have courage, hang in there” to those marching toward what he described as “life’s hope.”

It was Francis’ first direct message to Europe — and the world — about how to embrace and integrate the largest mass migration Europe has seen since the end of World War II.

From Greece to Germany, thousands of refugees remained on the move, packing boats, buses and trains and heading north and west.

The sudden decision late Friday by Austria and Germany to throw open their borders and take in thousands of refugees unwanted in Hungary does not seem to have stilled the movement across a continent that is feeling the effects of the cauldrons of conflict across the Middle East.

In Cyprus, the authorities said Sunday that they had rescued 114 people believed to be refugees fleeing Syria after their fishing boat issued a distress call some 46 miles off the island’s southern coast, The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, thousands of migrants continued to arrive on Lesbos and other Greek islands from Turkey. Migrants continued from there to the port of Piraeus in Athens and started heading north along the Balkan land route taken by tens of thousands of others in recent weeks.

At the other end of the migrant trail, Austrian rail operators announced that they had carried about 13,000 people to Germany from early Saturday to Sunday morning.


Jerusalem (AFP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he would not allow Israel to be "submerged" by refugees after calls for the Jewish state to take in those fleeing Syria's war.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also announced the start of construction of a fence along Israel's border with Jordan, according to his office.

"We will not allow Israel to be submerged by a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists," Netanyahu said.

"Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of Syrian and African refugees... but Israel is a small country -- very small -- without demographic or geographic depth. That is why we must control our borders."

There is already hostility in Israel toward asylum-seekers from Africa and a concerted government effort to repatriate them.

Rights groups say thousands of African asylum seekers have been coerced into "voluntary" departures.

Official figures show 45,000 illegal immigrants are in Israel, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. Most of those not in detention live in poor areas of southern Tel Aviv, where there have been several protests against them.

- 'To the Golan heights' -

The start of construction of the 30-kilometre (19-mile) fence announced by Netanyahu involves extension of a security barrier to part of its eastern border with Jordan in a bid to keep out militants and illegal migrants.

Netanyahu said when it was approved in June that the new fence was a continuation of a 240-kilometre barrier built along the Egyptian border which "blocked the entry of illegal migrants into Israel and the various terrorist movements".

In its first stage, the new fence is being built along Israel's eastern border between Eilat and where a new airport will be built in the Timna Valley.

"We will continue the fence up to the Golan Heights," Netanyahu said.

That would take it into the Israeli-occupied West Bank along the Jordan Valley, an area which is already under Israeli military control but is claimed by the Palestinians as part of their state.

Israel has insisted on maintaining troops in the area in any final peace agreement, a stance completely rejected by the Palestinians who say it would be a violation of their sovereignty and merely perpetuate the occupation.

Israel also has a fence that runs along the Syrian frontier through the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Those fences are in addition to a barrier that runs through the West Bank, which Israel began building during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which lasted from 2000-2005.