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Pope Francis: Refugees not dangerous, but are in danger

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In this handout image provided by Greek Prime Minister's Office, Pope Francis meets migrants at the Moria detention centre on April 16, 2016 in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. Pope Francis will visit migrants at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos along with Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronimos II. (Photo by Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister's Office via Getty Images)

ROME — At the Vatican on Saturday, Pope Francis told several hundred children, among them many migrants, who came from the Italian south to see him that migrants “aren’t a danger but they are in danger.”

Among the audience was a Nigerian youth, who lost his parents in 2014 as the family tried to reach Italy by sea. Francis has repeatedly expressed dismay that some European nations have refused to accept migrants, fleeing poverty or war, and have even thrown up fences and other barriers to thwart the arrivals from journeying northward after reaching the continent’s southern shores.

The UN refugee agency says over 700 migrants may have drowned in Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks south of Italy in the last few days as they tried to reach Europe.

Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for UNHCR, told The Associated Press by phone Sunday an estimated 100 people are missing from a smugglers’ boat that capsized Wednesday.

She said about 550 others are missing from a smuggling boat that capsized Thursday morning. She says refugees say that boat, carrying about 670 people, didn’t have an engine and was being towed by another smuggling boat before it capsized. About 25 people from it survived, 79 others were rescued by patrol boats and 15 dead bodies were recovered.

Sami says 45 more bodies were recovered from a shipwreck Friday and many more are reported missing.