ROME: One thousand refugees from Lebanon will be granted access to Italy over the next two years through humanitarian corridors thanks to a new protocol signed by the Italian government, Catholic NGO the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Italian Evangelical Churches and the Waldensian Table of Italy.
The protocol was signed in Rome on the first anniversary of the explosion at the Port of Beirut, on Aug. 4, 2020, in which 217 people were killed and 7,000 injured.
The blast displaced 300,000 people, caused widespread destruction and devastation, damaging buildings up to 20km away, and worsened the country’s already difficult economic situation.
Humanitarian corridors such as the ones promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio are considered a model of best practice at an international level and were emulated in similar projects in France, Belgium, Andorra and San Marino.
The agreement was signed by Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Community of Sant’Egidio; Luca Maria Negro, president of the Federation of Italian Evangelical Churches; Alessandra Trotta, moderator of the Waldensian Table; Luigi Maria Vignali, director-general for migration policies at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Prefect Michele di Bari, chief of the department for civil liberties and immigration at the Ministry of Interior.
The 1,000 people being granted access to Italy from Lebanon will be selected by the NGOs participating in the program among those in refugee camps who are experiencing a particularly difficult situation. Once in Italy, they will be granted the status of refugees and given social assistance.
Over 2,000 refugees have already reached Italy safely and legally in the past six years from other countries, mostly from Syria, thanks to two similar agreements through humanitarian corridor transfer programs, which were signed in 2015 and 2017, Impagliazzo told Arab News.
He specified that the project is “entirely self-financed” and has not only saved refugees from human traffickers and dangerous journeys in the Mediterranean Sea but also helped in the integration of 3,700 refugees in France, Belgium and the microstates of San Marino and Andorra.
He said: “The signing of this new agreement for the arrival of 1,000 vulnerable refugees in Italy is an event of great importance. Much has changed since we opened the first corridor and especially since the outbreak of the pandemic. The migration crisis has worsened, and millions of people fleeing war, famine and intolerable living conditions risk disappearing from public attention.”
Impagliazzo added: “With this new agreement, Italy has chosen to keep playing its role. We thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior for once again believing in the model of humanitarian corridors, the most innovative and successful idea in the management of migration so far.”
In a press conference, Negro, of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, said that the humanitarian corridor that just opened for refugees in Lebanon “confirms the validity of a simple intuition we had: 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.”