Pope: migrant deaths 'unacceptable and almost always avoidable'

Pope Francis celebrates a mass for migrants to commemorate the 5th anniversary of his visit in Lampedusa, at the Saint Peter's in Vatican

ROME (Reuters) - Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean are "unacceptable and almost always avoidable," Pope Francis said on Friday, renewing a call for policymakers across the region to address the issue in a manner "beneficial to all."

The 85-year-old pontiff, son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, often speaks up for the rights of migrants, and has repeatedly denounced how the Mediterranean has turned into a "vast cemetery."

"The inability to find common solutions [on migration] continues to lead to an unacceptable and almost always avoidable loss of lives, especially in the Mediterranean," Francis said in a message to Rome Med 2022, a foreign policy conference.

Insisting that migration towards Europe "cannot be stopped", he urged all parties involved to find a solution that can be "beneficial to all, guaranteeing both human dignity and shared prosperity."

Migration has for years been a political hot potato in Europe, with governments resorting to increasingly hard-line policies to try to stem the inflow of migrants and asylum-seekers from North Africa and the Middle East.

In Italy, one of the first acts of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government was the refusal to take in a charity migrant rescue boat, forcing it to go to all the way France and causing a furious spat with Paris.

According to data from the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, around 136,500 migrants have reached Europe via Mediterranean sea crossings this year, and more than 1,800 have died or gone missing.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini; Editing by Keith Weir)