Humanitarian corridors: new protocol signed for a thousand arrivals of refugees from Lebanon

Today, a new protocol was signed between the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), the Tavola Valdese and the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs for the entry into Italy of another thousand refugees currently hosted in Lebanon through the humanitarian corridors, an internationally recognised best practice, which has been replicated with similar projects in France, Belgium, Andorra and San Marino.

Signing the agreement with the Italian State were Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Luca Maria Negro, President of the FCEI, Alessandra Trotta, Moderator of the Tavola Valdese, Luigi Maria Vignali, Director General for Italians Abroad and Migration Policies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Prefect Michele di Bari, Head of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration.

Thanks to the first two agreements in 2015 and 2017, more than 2,000 refugees (mostly families and individuals in vulnerable conditions from Syria) have already arrived safely and legally in Italy, with an entirely self-financed project that not only saves them from traffickers and risky journeys in the Mediterranean, but also facilitates their integration in our country.

The thousand beneficiaries of the new two-year agreement will be selected by the signatory associations in Lebanon and other transit countries affected by humanitarian emergencies.

"The signing of a new agreement for a thousand admissions of vulnerable refugees in Italy over the next two years is an event of great importance", says Marco Impagliazzo. "Five years have passed since the first protocol establishing the humanitarian corridors and many things have changed due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, the migratory crisis has worsened - continues the President of the Community of Sant'Egidio - and the situation of millions of people fleeing from war, hunger and intolerable living conditions risks disappearing from the spotlight. With the agreement signed today, Italy chooses to do its part. Our thanks therefore go to the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs for once again believing in the model of the humanitarian corridors model, the most innovative and successful idea in migration management, which has so far guaranteed the reception and integration of 3,700 refugees from Lebanon, the Horn of Africa and the Greek island of Lesbos, not only in Italy but also in France, Belgium, San Marino and Andorra. All at no cost to the State, thanks to the active involvement of civil society. It is important to reiterate this, just when two humanitarian missions are underway that see hundreds of people from the Community of Sant'Egidio from different European countries involved free of charge in supporting refugees in the camps in Greece, in Lesbos and Athens, and in Bosnia". "But this agreement, signed a year after the terrible explosion that devastated Beirut, is also a sign of hope for Lebanon and aims to meet the needs of a country that is going through a very serious political, economic and social crisis and that, despite this, continues to receive the highest number of refugees compared to its population", concludes Impagliazzo.

"We express our great satisfaction for the conclusion of a new agreement and our appreciation to the Ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs for having recognised and reaffirmed the value of an experience, conceived and developed primarily in our country,' says Pastor Luca Maria Negro, President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy. The signing of a further protocol for the creation of humanitarian corridors confirms the validity of a simple intuition of six years ago: the opening of legal, safe and sustainable routes is the most effective alternative to deaths at sea and human trafficking. This experience, conceived and developed in Italy, has been taken up in other European countries but unfortunately has not yet become a European policy. Therefore, as evangelical churches, we will continue to work with our partners in Europe to put pressure on their governments to widen the legal and safe pathways of entry into their countries. Migration is the field where the European idea risks dying, killed by national selfishness and political opportunism. But we hope that it can also be the theme on which Europe rediscovers the soul and vision for which it was born as a union of peoples and states. The humanitarian corridors are a concrete testimony of what Europe could be and, with concreteness and humanitarian spirit, could do to face a knot that cannot be solved with securitarian proclamations or with military force, but only with development cooperation and the protection of human rights.