CASABLANCA, Morocco – Morocco's bishops said Tuesday they hope Pope Francis' visit to their country will help shed light on the situation of migrants in the country that is a key transit point for those trying to reach Europe.
People from Sub-Saharan Africa make up 50 percent to 70 percent of Catholic churchgoers in the majority Muslim country. Many are migrants staying illegally in poor conditions.
“We can give some migrants food, plastic, covers, yet we can't give them the respect they deserve. They are people, not animals.” said Santiago Agrelo Martinez, archbishop of Tangier.
He said he hopes the pope's visit March 30-31 will help improve the situation.
The city he oversees is particularly known for being a focal point for departure into the Mediterranean Sea. A large crackdown on migrants was led by Moroccan authorities there last summer to limit numbers of crossings.
“Pope Francis loves to go to frontiers, to places of transit,” said Cristobal Lopez Romero, archbishop of Rabat.
Nearly 47,500 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year, while 564 have died or gone missing while trying to reach Europe, according to the International Organization of Migration.