Pope: ‘Terrorists’ could sneak into Europe with refugees

Pope Francis warned ‘that just 400 kilometers from Sicily there is an incredibly cruel terrorist group’

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Pope Francis has warned against the risk that militants could slip into Europe under cover of a huge wave of refugees fleeing war in Syria but also said the migrant crisis could help reawaken the continent’s conscience.

In an interview published on Monday with the Portuguese Catholic broadcaster Radio Renascenca, the pope referred to the risk that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has killed Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, could launch attacks in Europe.

“It’s true, I also want to recognize that, nowadays, territorial security conditions are not the same as they were in other periods (of mass migration),” he said in the interview.

“The truth is that just 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Sicily there is an incredibly cruel terrorist group. So there is a danger of infiltration, this is true.”

Security specialists have said the risk that militants could be smuggled into Europe in this way is small.

Asked if Rome could be the target of an attack, the pope said: “Yes, nobody said Rome would be immune to this threat. But you can take precautions ...”

ISIS militants have made threats against Catholic targets in Rome that have been widely reported and security has been stepped up in the Vatican City and other religious sites in Italy that draw many pilgrims and tourists.

On Sept. 6, the pope appealed to every Catholic parish, religious community and sanctuary in Europe to take in a family of refugees, saying he would set the example by hosting two families in parishes inside the Vatican.

“These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause; and the cause is a bad and unjust socioeconomic system ...” he said in the interview.

Asked if the refugee crisis could be a positive occasion for Europe and a re-awakening of the continent’s conscience, the pope said “it could be.”

Germany still taking in refugees

Refugees will continue to arrive in Germany despite the government's introduction of temporary border controls and the new measures do not affect the right to asylum for people who are being persecuted, a government spokesman said on Monday.

“Temporary border controls are not a closure of the borders – that’s something completely different. Refugees will still come to Germany,” Steffen Seibert said at a government news conference, adding that the government was hoping the entry process would be “more orderly” now.

“Our principles have not changed - we continue to be led by humanity and the right to protection that the politically persecuted and war refugees have here in Germany,” he said.

Seibert said Chancellor Angela Merkel would hold a meeting on Tuesday with the premiers of Germany’s 16 federal states, the head of Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and some government ministers to discuss asylum and refugee policy.

The states have in recent days complained about the growing burden of coping with the crisis and Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer has called for a doubling of the 4 billion euros in federal support the states and municipalities are due to receive this year and next to help them cope with the flood of refugees.

Seibert said Merkel would also meet Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann in Berlin on Tuesday to discuss how to proceed in the refugee crisis.

He said the German cabinet would discuss asylum and refugee policy at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

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