Calling economic migrants and the flow of refugees fleeing war zones in the wider Middle East and Africa only the “tip of an iceberg” the pontiff highlighted what he believes to be the root cause of the crisis.
“The cause is a bad and unjust socioeconomic system, in everything, in the world,” Pope Francis said in an interview with the Portuguese Catholic broadcaster Radio Renascenca. “ These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg.”
“This migration phenomenon is a reality,” Francis said. “When there is an empty space, people try to fill it. If a country has no children, immigrants come in and take their place. I think of the birth-rate in Italy, Portugal and Spain.”
Asked about the challenge of welcoming the refugees and migrants who arrive on the doorsteps of the EU, the pontiff warned that while general attitudes of people regarding the acceptance of foreigners have changed for the worse, a new terrorist threat is also present that was not there before.
“Nowadays, territorial security conditions are not the same as they were in other periods [of mass migration],” he said. “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.”
Over the course of the year Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) engaged in spreading an online messaging campaign threatening that they would use their fighters in North Africa to invade Italy, using Libya as the “gateway to Rome.” As part of their propaganda effort, Islamist radicals posted a series of online messages showing the Vatican in flames with a black flag flying above the Holy See.