Catholic and Protestant associations in Italy have launched a pilot project to provide a legal path for refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe. The goal is to eliminate the treacherous sea crossings and to undermine human trafficking. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome on the arrival of the first of the refugees covered by this program.
In December, the Rome government approved the humanitarian corridor project which is being sponsored by the Catholic Sant'Egidio and the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy. The two nonprofit associations are footing the entire bill - an estimated $1.42 million to process the refugees' visas, cover their travel, resettlement and legal aid expenses here in Italy. Sant'Egidio has been involved in conflict resolution and assisting immigrants for decades. Its president, Marco Impagliazzo, says the plan for this year is to bring 1,000 refugees from Lebanon and Morocco to Italy. He says these refugees will be spared.