Pope Francis to bring three families of migrants back to the Vatican

The Pope's visit will allow him to witness the scale of Europe's migrant crisis

Pope Francis, Greece, Lesbos,

Image: Gregorio Borgia / AP/Press Association Images

Pope Francis has taken 12 Syrian refugees, including six children, home to Rome with him after visiting migrants on the Greek island of Lesbo.

The Vatican insists the visit is humanitarian and religious in nature, but will serve to highlight the EU's new deportation plan, which has drawn significant criticism.

The island is home to thousands of migrants who have crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey, a journey which has claimed a growing number of lives

Speaking on Saturday, Pope Francis told refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos that "you are not alone", adding that he had seen their suffering and hoped that the world would respond.

Lesbos has also seen a number of protests taking place after an EU deal agreed last month to ease the migration crisis started deportations from the islands of Lesbos, Samos and Kos.

According to AFP, an official of Greece's state refugee coordination agency has said that the Pope will take a number of refugees from "vulnerable groups" back to the Vatican with him. 

Three families based at Kara Tepe on Lesbos were reportedly chosen in a draw, according to Greek state television ERT. The 10 refugees - eight Syrians and two Afghans - are due to return to Italy with him in what would be seen as a hugely symbolic gesture.

During his visit, Pope Francis said the migrant crisis was the "greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War Two" and said Europe must deal with the migrant crisis in a "way that is worthy of our common humanity".

He said his visit was "marked by sadness" and as he visited the shores, where hundreds of migrants have lost their lives attempting the dangerous crossing to Lesbos, he threw a wreath into the sea saying: "we are all migrants".

The Vatican insists the Pontiff's five-hour visit is purely humanitarian and religious in nature, but Gauri Van Gulik, deputy Europe director at Amnesty International, said they would like him to speak out, saying, "he should make a political call that this needs to end right now". 

Image: A Pakistani migrant stranded on the Greek island of Lesbos sits behind a cross of a memorial at a rocky sea side near the port of Mytilini. Petros Giannakouris / AP/Press Association Images

Van Gulik added that "the Pope's visit comes at a pivotal moment: right as Europe is gearing up to send thousands of refugees back to Turkey, locking them up in the meantime in horrible conditions.

"These are people who fled the horrors of Islamic State, the Taliban, bombings in Syria and more. They deserve Europe's protection and care, and hopefully the Pope can shed light on their plight."

On Saturday morning, the Pope took to Twitter to share a message emphasising the effect of the crisis on those involved, and the danger of thinking as them as mere statistics.

There was a small protest outside the Moria detention camp on Friday, with demonstrators saying the Pope should do more. Overnight graffiti saying "Papa don't preach" had to be removed after it was sprayed at the venues where Pope Francis was due to speak.