Humanitarian corridors for refugees
On 27 February 2016, the Community of Sant'Egidio set up humanitarian corridors to Italy for Syrian families fleeing the war. Nearly 700 people were able to come to Italy safe and sound, thanks to these corridors, which were the fruit of an agreement between Sant'Egidio, the Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior, and the Federation of Evangelical churches and the Waldensian church.
France, is in turn, responding to the distress of the refugees by signing an agreement in the presence of the President of the Republic, and Ministers for Interior and Foreign Affairs. Over the course of the next 18 months the project will involve the passage of 500 Syrian and Iraqi refugees currently living in Lebanon, "with priority given to the most vulnerable" (families with children, single women, elderly people, the sick, the disabled, and victims of torture). “Just as the 700 refugees who arrived in Italy” highlighted Sant’Egidio, “they will travel by plane rather than further risk their lives in travelling by sea, and they will pass through controls at the outset of their journey”. They will be welcomed onto French territory by the five organisations promoting the project, namely, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Protestant Federation of France, the Conference of Bishops of France, l’Entraide Protestant, and le Secours Catholique.
"I wanted the signing of this project which welcomes and shows solidarity with refugees to take place at the Elysée, because it is an initiative that accords with the values of France". It was with these words that the French President hosted the signing at the Elysee. "The Constitution of the Republic," F. Hollande added, "recognises the right of asylum and commits the State and its citizens: a legal commitment, but also a moral, national and international obligation".
According to the French president, "there is a need for new solutions both from institutions and from civil society" in order to face "an unprecedented wave of migrations" from the Middle East and Africa “due to conflict, misery and climate change". "We must fight against indifference, but also against intolerance," concluded Hollande, who warned against "those who stir up fears in people".
Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, also present at the signing of the agreement, said: "The experience of humanitarian corridors demonstrates that integration offers more protection than walls. The signing of the agreement today is a sign for Europe”.
Once they have been selected on the basis of the vulnerability criteria, the refugees will arrive in France having been provided with a humanitarian visa and an air ticket. They will be welcomed by communities, parishes, individuals, and directed at once on a path towards integration, thanks to learning the French language.
"Today a shared dream is being achieved, which can be spread to other European countries," said Valérie Régnier, President of the Community of Sant'Egidio in France, “because humanitarian corridors show that there is an alternative to journeys of despair and that we must fight against indifference and the shame of so many deaths in the Mediterranean Sea”.
"What is at stake is peace and the future of Europe, and we are fighting for Europe to remain the continent of peace," observed the head of Sant'Egidio in France, emphasising "the civic responsibility to welcome and integrate those fleeing war”.
François Clavairoly, President of the Protestant Federation of France, expressed his gratitude to the Community of Sant'Egidio for its involvement in "a project of great value in the face of a weakened and divided society". "The drama of the refugees," Clavairoly said, "is challenging the values of the Republic, while humanitarian corridors are the symbol of an engaged society." Bernard Thibaud, secretary general of Secours Catholique, confirmed that "many French people want to welcome and therefore resist the temptation to give into the culture of waste".
Translated from the original text in French
EN The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Social Centre.