Refugees from Lesbos arrive in Rome on July 18, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa
Refugees from Lesbos arrive in Rome on July 18, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa

Ten Afghans arrived in Rome from the Greek island of Lesbos last week. They are the first refugees to arrive in Italy via a humanitarian corridor after the COVID-19 lockdown.

The ten refugees arrived in Rome on Thursday, after long months of waiting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those who arrived in Rome are a family with the two parents and two children, a young newly married couple, a widow with two children and a young single man. All were given COVID-19 tests at Rome's Fiumicino airport on arrival but will also undergo quarantine as an additional precaution.

The ten people are all Afghan nationals, as is the case with the vast majority of refugees on the island of Lesbos. The Greek island has been overwhelmed by refugee and migrant arrivals, the local camp -- Moria -- is extremely overcrowded, living conditions are poor.

'A big hope and joy'

"There was a very long wait for these families and it seemed like everything was closed but instead the corridors are reopening. This is a big hope and joy," Sant'Egidio founder Andrea Riccardi said upon their arrival.

"The first humanitarian corridor after the lockdown," a statement issued by Sant'Egidio said, "was made possible thanks to invaluable synergy between the Italian authorities and their Greek counterparts, especially between the Italian interior ministry through Department Chief Michele di Bari and the Greek immigration and asylum ministry."

Hosting migrants via humanitarian corridors

The ten Afghans are the last group of refugees brought to Italy from the Greek island of Lesbos by an initiative launched by Pope Francis through the Office of Papal Charities and the Catholic charity Sant'Egidio. A total of 67 people have arrived in Italy from Lesbos through several trips via the "Pope corridors." The first 12 had arrived on the same plane as the pope on April 16, 2016.

The "Pope corridor" is one of several humanitarian corridors in Italy. Humanitarian corridors allow private organizations -- such as religious charities -- to host refugees in Italy and thus sponsor their relocation from conflict-ridden countries (such as Libya) and overcrowded camps (such as Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos). Several other European countries have copied this Italian model. All in all, humanitarian corridor projects have brought over 3,000 refugees to Europe thus far.

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