CAIRO -- Pope Francis is calling for humanitarian corridors to protect refugees fleeing their homelands and denouncing the "populist rhetoric" that is closing doors in their faces.
In a speech Tuesday to an international forum on migration and peace, Francis also demanded justice and redress for migrants and the poor who have been exploited by the wealthy. He said the world can no longer sustain "unacceptable economic inequality" that destroys the planet and forces people to leave their homes.
He said: "One group of individuals cannot control half of the world's resources. We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs."
It's a theme the world's first Latin American pope has emphasized during his four-year papacy, most stridently in his 2015 environmental encyclical.
In Libya, scores of bodies of African migrants were washed ashore, in the western city of Zawiya on the Mediterranean Sea, a spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent said on Tuesday.
The drownings — at least 74 bodies were found in Zawiya — are the latest tragedy at sea after migrant deaths rose to record levels along the Libya-Italy smuggling route over the past months.
The Red Crescent's spokesman Mohammed al-Misrati told The Associated Press that the bodies were found Monday morning.
Last week, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said the Libya-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean has seen record numbers of migrant drownings in 2016.
According to Leggeri, migrant deaths along the central Mediterranean route stood at 4,579 for last year, which still might be much less than the true loss of life. That's compared to 2,869 deaths in 2015 and 3,161 in 2014.
There is little sign of the surge is abating, even during wintertime. There were 228 recorded deaths in January, by far the biggest monthly toll in recent years. Leggeri blamed the very small dinghies and poor vessels used by the smugglers for the high death rate. (AP)
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