The State Secretariat for Asylum and Migration of Belgium and the Community of Sant'Egidio signed today an agreement on a project, which enables 250 refugees in vulnerable conditions to reach Belgium safely and legally. The project will be implemented and financed by Sant'Egidio in collaboration with communities of different religions.
The project of humanitarian corridors foresees the identification of refugees from different crisis regions of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, who can benefit from international protection in Belgium because of their vulnerability (women, families with children, sick, elderly, etc.). The features of being a member of a threatened minority and having potential ties to Belgium are additional criterias. If the assessment is favorable, they receive a humanitarian visa and they are legally and safely accompanied by airplane to Belgium. For the beneficiaries, the operation is completely free of charge because the costs are paid by the entities involved.
After their arrival, the beneficiaries of this humanitarian corridor need to apply for asylum in Belgium. During this asylum procedure, they will not be assisted by the state (except for medical care), as the reception, accommodation, and accompaniment of these people will be organized by the religious communities. After the granting of international protection, the reception and accompaniment of refugees will continue for a total period of at least one year, with particular attention to the integration process of the persons concerned.
For the implementation of the project, Sant'Egidio and its partners from the religious communities will work closely with the Cabinet of the Secretary of State Sammy Mahdi, the General Commissioner for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRA), the Office for Foreigners and Fedasil. Implementers will also maintain regular contact with relevant international organizations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
In 2017-2018, a similar humanitarian corridor had already been set up and allowed 150 vulnerable Syrian refugees to arrive in Belgium. They had been welcomed and helped in their integration by the religious communities. Even at that time, refugees’ religious affiliations had played no role in their selection. This will also happen with the newly agreed humanitarian corridor.
From the very beginning, humanitarian corridors have been a model of complementary legal pathways for vulnerable refugees, in addition to the existing resettlement programs within the United Nations. In recent years, many actors on the international scene, including the European Commission, have called for the launch of this type of initiative. By opening this new humanitarian corridor, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the recognized cults of Belgium, and the Belgian government are answering this call.
Since 2016, Sant'Egidio has already been able to relocate and integrate more than 4,500 vulnerable refugees in European countries such as Italy and France. These refugees are mainly from Lebanon and Ethiopia. Furthermore, Sant'Egidio and UNHCR signed a broader cooperation agreement in Geneva this week, by highlighting in this way the complementarity of official resettlement programs, such as those of UNHCR and humanitarian corridors.