Seventy Syrian refugees who were living in refugee camps in Lebanon arrived in Italy on Monday (November 29). The refugees flew to Rome from Beirut thanks to humanitarian corridors -- an initiative promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and the Waldesian Table, in agreement with the Italian government.
Seventy Syrian refugees from camps in the Beqaa Valley in northern Lebanon landed at Rome's Fiumicino airport on a flight from Beirut on Monday, November 29.
This first group will be joined by a further 14 refugees whose arrival is scheduled on December 3, for a total of 84 people, including 39 minors.
The refugees were able to travel to Italy thanks to humanitarian corridors promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and the Waldensian Table, in agreement with the interior and foreign ministries.
Since February 2016, over 2,050 people have been transferred to Italy thanks to this initiative. Overall, 4,042 asylum seekers have reportedly reached Europe via humanitarian corridors.
Integration programs for minors, adults ready
The families who arrived on Monday will be hosted by different associations, by parish churches and communities in 12 Italian regions (Lazio, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Trentino).
After a period of quarantine -- a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 -- they will be enrolled in integration programs.
Minors will start attending school while adults will study Italian and, once they have obtained refugee status, they will be able to work.
Humanitarian corridors are entirely self-funded through fundraising campaigns organized by the Sant'Egidio Community and by the Waldenians with the 'eight per thousand' (otto per mille) share from the annual income tax returns taxpayers can choose to devolve to a religious denomination under Italian law, organizers said.
The corridors are "organized thanks to a widespread hosting network, representing an efficient model mixing solidarity with security, which has been replicated in other countries like France, Belgium and Andorra", the Community of Sant'Egidio said in a statement.
50 refugees from Niger to Italy
On Friday (November 26) another 50 refugees -- including 16 children -- arrived in Rome from Niger as part of a humanitarian corridors program by the Catholic charity Caritas in cooperation with the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the Italian government and the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI).
Caritas said the initiative "has allowed hundreds of refugees, many of whom had a dramatic experience in Libyan prisons, to arrive in a legal and safe way. Sudan, the Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Cameroon, Yemen are countries of origin from which these people have fled to avoid persecution and violence."
The refugees were welcomed in Rome by Caritas representatives from the cities of Vigevano, Crema, Avellino, Venice, Matera and Verona. They will host the refugees, guaranteeing integration programs for them within their communities.
As recalled by Mons.Francesco Soddu, the former director of Caritas Italy and today the bishop of Terni-Narni-Amelia, "once again the program of humanitarian corridors has shown that there is a safe and legal alternative to reach Italy, avoiding traffickers and endangering their lives at sea."
The NGO Solidaire provided the Boeing 787, which flew from Niamey to Rome, "proof of the great attention and sensibility of civil society towards those fleeing conflicts and humanitarian emergencies," highlighted Caritas.
The founder, Enrique Piñeyro, wanted to support this initiative, recalling that the "mission of Solidaire is first of all to provide logistical support to humanitarian missions, guaranteeing the safe arrival of refugees."