LESBOS/ BUDAPEST - Pope Francis on Saturday told refugees trapped on the Greek island of Lesbos that they are ‘not alone’ in their plight, and called on the world to respond with ‘common humanity’ to the migrant crisis.

‘You are not alone, do not lose hope,’ the pope said as he visited Lesbos with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece, calling on the world to respond to the tragedy ‘in a way worthy of our common humanity’.

The three religious leaders then signed a joint declaration that calls on the international community to ‘respond with courage in facing this massive humanitarian crisis and its underlying causes through diplomatic, political and charitable initiatives.’

The pope, who is next scheduled to say a prayer at Lesbos harbour for the hundreds of people of all ages who have died in the Aegean trying to reach Europe, has expressed a desire to take to the Vatican some refugees after his five-hour visit, according to an official from Greece's state refugee coordination agency.

‘We are also going to a cemetery, the sea. So many people never arrived,’ he said before his arrival on Saturday. There were emotional scenes as the pope visited the migrant facility of Moria, greeting unaccompanied minors, women and small children who gave him over a dozen drawings.

One man broke into tears as he knelt at the pope's feet, requesting his blessing. Another woman got around security to approach the pontiff, also breaking down in tears as he paused to listen to her. Other migrants detained at Moria, unable to reach the pope, shouted and whistled.

Some held handmade signs that read 'We want freedom', 'Let my people go' and 'Papa cherche a nous sauver' ('Pope, try to save us'). The pontiff's landmark visit comes amid controversy over a deal last month to end Europe's refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey.

Moreover, twelve Syrian refugees were accompanying Pope Francis on his return flight to Rome after his visit to Lesbos on Saturday and will be housed in the Vatican, the Holy See said. ‘The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees from Syria, 12 people in all, including six children,’ a Vatican statement said. The families, all Muslims, had been in Lesbos before the March 20 EU-Turkey deal for returning migrants denied asylum, it said. Moreover, Hungary announced Saturday a plan to ‘defend Europe’ in the face of the migrant crisis, defying a EU re-settlement scheme agreed in September.

The country's conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, long opposed to accepting refugees, will personally present the 10 point plan to several European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the official Hungarian government website said. According to the proposal, which it dubs ‘Schengen 2.0’, Hungary would ‘defend Europe’ by increasing EU border defences and handling refugee cases outside of the bloc. ‘If a country is incapable of meeting this obligation, it should ask for help from other member states or from the European agency for border protection (FRONTEX),’ the text said.

The proposals, which would be voluntary, reject the EU deal on re-settling migrants among member states reached in September. The emergency scheme was intended to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers currently in Greece and Italy although only 1,100 of these have been moved so far. Hungary filed a legal challenge against mandatory quotas with the European Court of Justice late last year.

Around 400,000 migrants and refugees passed through Hungary in 2015 before Orban's right-wing government sealed off the southern borders with razor wire and fences in the autumn.

Authorities also brought in tough new laws punishing illegal entry and vandalism of the fences. Around 2,200 people have been charged with crimes under the new legislation, the vast majority of whom have been served with expulsion orders.

In February, Orban called a referendum on the mandatory migrant quota, saying Brussels had no right to ‘redraw Europe's cultural and religious identity’. The ballot is likely to take place in the second half of the year.