Italy greets first refugees since border lockdown

Article by Arab News

Italy has welcomed the first group of refugees to arrive in the country since its borders were closed due to the pandemic.
Ten refugees — members of four families — traveled via a humanitarian corridor organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic group dedicated to social service, together with Greek and Italian authorities.

The refugees, originally from Afghanistan and Syria, arrived from the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, a site originally intended to hold 3,000 refugees but now with more than 19,000 people.
Moria is known as the hell of Europe,” Razieh Gholami, one of the refugees, told journalists after arriving in Rome four months after Italy closed its borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  “The refugees staying in Moria live in difficult, frightening conditions where fundamental rights are ignored and they have no way of returning or moving forward” she said. “Such a difficult situation has become even harder with the pandemic. People are just stuck there”.

Andrea Riccardi, founder of Sant’Egidio, told Arab News: “The reception of these 10 refugees today is a stimulus. In times of confinement, other EU countries should not forget these forgotten people, who are at the gates of Europe. Lesbos is their symbol.”

The Rome-based charity will help the refugees integrate into Italian society with language programs, as it has done with 57 other exiles who have come to Italy via the same path. The first group arrived in April 2016, traveling on the same plane as Pope Francis when he returned to Rome from a visit to the Lesbos refugee camp.

The Humanitarian Corridors project offers people who flee from conflict in their countries legal and safe ways to reach Europe. It aims to stop refugees risking their lives at the hands of human traffickers and dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea.