Refugees, new protocol for a thousand more arrivals from Lebanon via humanitarian corridors

A new protocol was signed by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), Waldensian Board, Community of Sant’Egidio and the Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs

"Corridoi umanitari", disegno di Francesco Piobbichi, operatore di FCEI-Mediterranean Hope

Rome (NEV CS/15), 5th August 2021 – A new protocol was signed today by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), Waldensian Board, Community of Sant’Egidio and the Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs to facilitate admission to Italy for a thousand more refugees, currently hosted in Lebanon, through the Humanitarian Corridors programme, recognised internationally as a model of best practice and replicated in France, Belgium, Andorra and San Marino.

Signatories to the memorandum with the Italian State were Luca Maria Negro, president of FCEI, Alessandra Trotta, moderator of the Waldensian Board, Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Luigi Maria Vignali, Director General for Italians Abroad and Migration Policy at 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 accords, signed in 2015 and 2017, more than 2,000 refugees (many of whom are families and vulnerable Syrians) have already arrived safely and legally in Italy via the self-financed programme, which not only saves participants from traffickers and highly risky journies across the Mediterranean but also facilitates integration within our country.  The thousand beneficiaries of the new two-year accord will be identified by signatory organisations in Lebanon and in other transit countries affected by humanitarian emergencies.

“Signature of a new accord for 1,000 vulnerable refugee admissions into Italy within two years is an event of real importance,” statesMarco Impagliazzo. “Five years have passed since the first protocol initiated humanitarian corridors and so many other things have changed as a result of the pandemic.  Unfortunately the migratory crisis has been worsening – 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 falling off the radar.  With today’s accord, Italy is choosing to do its part.  Our thanks therefore go to the Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs for having once again believed in the humanitarian corridors model, this most innovative and successful model of migration management which has so far provided reception and integration for 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 without cost to the State, thanks to the active involvement of civil society.  It’s important to emphasise that at a point when two humanitarian missions are underway which will see hundreds of people from the Community of Sant’Egidio from various countries involved at no cost in supporting refugees in camps in Greece, on Lesbos and in Athens, and in Bosnia.  But this accord, signed a year after the terrible explosion which devastated Beirut, represents a sign of hope for Lebanon and seeks to meet the needs of a country undergoing a very serious political, economic and social crisis and which nontheless continues to host the highest number of refugees in comparison to its population,” concludes Impagliazzo.

“We can express real satisfaction at the finalisation of a new accord and our appreciation to the Ministeries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs for having recognised and reaffirmed the value of an experiment, conceived and developed primarily in our own country,” states Reverend Luca Maria Negro, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy. The signature of a further protocol implementing humanitarian corridors affirms the vailidity of a simple hunch six years ago: the opening of legal, secure and sustainable pathways is the most effective alternative to deaths at sea and the trafficking of human beings.  This experiment, designed and developed in Italy, has been taken up in other European countries but, unfortunately, has not yet become European policy.  As Protestant churches, we shall continue to work for this with our partners in Europe in order that they might press their governments to expand legal and secure admission pathways in their respective countries.   Migration is the arena in which the European idea risks dying, killed by national self-interest and political opportunism.  But we dare to hope that this can also be the sphere in which Europe once again finds its soul and the vision for which it was established as a union of peoples and states.  Humanitarian corridors are a concrete testament to what Europe could be and could do to tackle – practically and with a humanitarian spirit – an issue which will not be resolved with security-obsessed declarations or with military force but only through cooperation in developing and safeguarding human rights”.