Refugees, Libya: “Open a European humanitarian corridor”

Italian Protestant churches and Community of Sant’Egidio write to Conte: “We are ready.  Let Italy lead this initiative.”

Drawing by Francesco Piobbichi, staff, Mediterranean Hope programme, Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI)

Roma (NEV), 29 April 2019 – The presidents of the Comunity of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, and of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), Luca Maria Negro, have written to Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte to put forward a proposal for a “European humanitarian corridor” and declare their immediate availability to work together on its implementation on the basis of experience gained in Italy over the last three years.  For information, the letter was also sent to the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation Emanuela Del Re and to Undersecretary Andrea Molteni at the Ministry of the Interior.

The proposed mechanism is analogous to that adopted for the “humanitarian corridors” which are being implemented on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding among the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Waldensian Board and the Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs, initially entered into in 2015 and renewed in 2017.  Thanks to this agreement, which provides for the grant of “humanitarian visas” pursuant to art. 25 of the Schengen Visa Code, 1,600 asylum seekers, mainly Syrians coming from Lebanon, have arrived Italy.  The competent ministries have also signed an analogous agreement with the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Italian Bishops’ Conference for a further contingent of 500 refugees from Ethiopia.  In the wake of the “good practice” implemented in Italy, humanitarian corridors have also been opened in France, Belgium and Andorra for a total of about 2,500 arrivals to date in Europe.

“Our proposal is born of experience on the ground” explain Negro and Impagliazzo, “and its objective is the arrival into Europe of 50,000 refugees over two years, spread amongst those countries willing to give practical form to their international obligations in relation to asylum and human rights.  Italy should be leading this programme, opening another corridor from Libya, for at least 2,500 people per year.  For our part,” add the two religious leaders, “we have already developed a relationship with Terres des Hommes and other NGOs operating in Libya to make this project – which starts in Italy but applies to European countries and institutions – a reality.  Faced with the news coming out of Libya, with thousands of refugees exposed not only to extortion, violence and torture but also to the brutality of military clashes, we cannot simply stand by and watch.  Strengthened by the encouragement received from Pope Francis, most recently last Sunday, from various sister churches in Europe and from the Ecumenical Council of Churches, we are renewing our willingness to work immediately to protect the lives, welfare and human rights of thousands of refugees who are hostage to abuses which are every day more widespread and brutal.