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18 April 2016

Pope Francis arriving at the Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesbos, where refugees are held as they await rulings on their asylum applications. Photo: Aris Messinis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Pope Francis Takes 12 Refugees Back to Vatican After Trip to Greece

Greece — Pope Francis made an emotional visit into the heart of Europe’s migrant crisis on Saturday and took 12 Muslim refugees from Syria, including six children, with him back to Rome aboard the papal plane, writes Jim Yardley for The New York Times.

The action punctuated the pope’s pleas for sympathy to the crisis confronting the refugees just as European attitudes are hardening against them.

Those taken to Rome were three families — two from Damascus and one from Deir al-Zour — whose homes had been bombed in the Syrian war, the Vatican said in a statement as the pope departed the Greek island of Lesbos, where he had visited the Moria refugee camp. "The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees," the statement said.

The announcement capped a brief trip by the pope to Greece that again placed the plight of migrants at the center of his papacy.

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Nigerian women living in Kenya campaign in Nairobi in 2014. Photo: AFP / Tony Karumba.

Hashtag Fail? #BringBackOurGirls Two Years On

Nigeria - More than a week after 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the remote northeast Nigerian town of Chibok by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014, a lawyer posted the first #BringBackOurGirls tweet, writes Stephanie Findlay for Agence France Presse.

Ibrahim Abdullahi's hashtag would go on to become one of Africa's most popular online campaigns and was shared more than four million times over the next month on Twitter.

Social media heavyweights such as Kim Kardashian and Chris Brown endorsed it, while US First Lady Michelle Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron both held up signs of the slogan.

#BringBackOurGirls undoubtedly brought global attention to a brutal, but largely ignored conflict that since 2009 has claimed at least 20,000 lives and made more than 2.6 million others homeless.

It also galvanized international support against Boko Haram at a time when Nigeria's military was floundering badly in the face of the better-armed rebels, losing territory and vital public support.

But two years on, #BringBackOurGirls risks becoming another example of the limited influence of online protest, according to Ufuoma Akpojivi, a media researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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For more on IOM's ongoing work in northeastern Nigeria click here


For the past week, we have been asking you to identify cases of smuggling of migrants. Here is the definition IOM uses:

Migration in the News

  • AP, Sputnik and AFP reported that the closure of EU borders (in the Balkans) means that the Libyan migration route is busier now than it was 12 months ago. Italian PM Matteo Renzi denied it was “an invasion.”
  • BBC, DPA, Thomson Reuters, Vatican Radio and others reported Pope Francis’ visit to the Moria detention camp on the Greek island of Lesbos to show his solidarity with the migrants and refugees.
  • Nigeria’s Vanguard reported that 1.9 million Nigerians have now been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast of the country.
  • Catholic News Radio reported that children in areas with low immunization coverage in South Sudan are now very vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
  • Afghanistan’s Khaama Press reported the findings of a study identifying cross-border trade opportunities on the Afghan-Tajik border.
  • A Himalayan Times Editorial commented on the “miserable” situation of nearly 60,000 internally displaced Nepalis still living in over 100 camps since the August 2015 earthquake. 

Trending on the Internet

  • The Daily Mail reported criticism by former UNHCR official Killian Kleinschmidt of “waste, bureaucracy and an obsession with celebrity ambassadors” at the UN.
  • The Guardian ran an Op-Ed by UNCTAD and Liberian officials arguing that migrants will continue to flow to the west if real investment is not made to improve the economy of the least developed countries.

Media Contacts

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