ROME, 4 JULY – “We welcome you with the promise of including you in our country: you are Syrians but from now on you are also new Italians!”. The President of the Community of Sant’Egidio Marco Impagliazzo addressed these warm words to 52 Syrian refugees who arrived this morning at Fiumicino airport from Beirut, thanks to the Italian initiative of the humanitarian corridors. “Italy is now your country and your future, now you are our fellow citizens and we are happy to welcome you”, Impagliazzo said to the families, including many children, coming from refugee camps in Lebanon after fleeing from their town severely affected by the war in Syria.
Until now the humanitarian corridors have allowed to more than 850 people to reach Italy safely and legally, avoiding journeys on the wrecked boats in the Mediterranean, which causes a high number of deaths or the “Balkan route”, the other insidious journey – across the Balkans – made by thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing war and persecutions, to enter the European Union. The humanitarian corridors grant to people in “vulnerable conditions” ( victims of persecution, torture and violence, as well as families with children, elderly people, sick people, persons with disabilities) to reach legally the Italian territory with humanitarian visa, with the possibility to apply for asylum.
Along with the President of Sant’Egidio Marco Impagliazzo, Manuela Vinay, representing the Protestant Churches in Italy, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mario Giro also welcomed the Syrian families at Fiumicino airport. Giro underlined that the humanitarian corridors model can be reproduced by other European countries, as it happened this evening in France, where, for the first time, a group of refugees arrived in the country with the support of the Sant’Egidio Community and the Protestant Church in collaboration with the French government. At 19:45 five Syrian and Iraqi families landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris coming from Lebanon. “Families were chosen according to criteria of vulnerability”, said Mireille Danvienne, spokeswoman for Sant’Egidio France, pointing out that priority was given to “disadvantaged people, sole women and unaccompanied minors”. France has finally opened its first humanitarian corridor thanks to the agreement signed last March by the former President François Hollande and five associations, including the Community of Sant’Egidio.
“Last March at the Elysee palace we signed a protocol, valid for eighteen months, that will allow 500 people to reach France legally and to process their asylum applications in only three months, instead of the six necessary with the ordinary procedure – Danvienne added – . The next round of refugees should arrive in France between September and October”.
“Today is an important day for our country because refugees from Syria, where war is still ravaging the country, causing millions of displaced people, forced to live in refugee camps in Lebanon, arrived in Italy safely and legally. The humanitarian corridors are a safe way to manage migration both for Italy and for the asylum seekers themselves: migrants are controlled by our police forces in Lebanon and they travel on airline flights at the expense of the Community of Sant’Egidio and of the Federation of the Evangelical Churches”, Impagliazzo said, highlighting that among the refugees, there are 34 children: one of them is severely ill and will undergo a kidney transplant in Turin.
“These are situations of vulnerability that, with great humanity, Italian families and Catholic communities in Italy contribute to integrate in our country,” Impagliazzo stressed, reiterating the appeal launched to the Italian government to press the EU to recourse to the 2001 Directive on Displaced People –. Our program means salvation, welcome and integration. These three key points might prove to Europe that being human and integrating these desperate people is possible, beyond walls and denials”.
(@onuitalia, 4 July 2017)