“Welcome to France! We are happy to welcome you despite this difficult time worldwide, and also in France, due to the coronavirus. But we do not forget Syria.
“We are following closely what is happening in Idlib. And we are happy that solidarity can continue because precisely today we need more, not less, solidarity!”
With these words, Valérie Régnier, head of Catholic Church movement Sant’Egidio in France, received on Sunday March 15, at the Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris, a new group of Syrian refugees from Lebanon who entered safely and legally (through an Air France flight).
Some Youth for Peace members, volunteers from the Federation of Evangelical Churches and groups of citizens from the various host regions were also present for the welcome.
The traditional welcoming ceremony for humanitarian corridors was held in small groups of people to comply with the new sanitary regulations related to the coronavirus.
Still, the reception was very joyful for these families who had been waiting for a long time to escape the war and be welcomed in France.
In fact, the families expressed their relief at being welcomed together with their children in a country in peace, after years of suffering and danger in the refugee camps.
In total there are five Syrian families, 21 people, including 11 children from 2 months to 18 years old.
Of the 5 families, 4 will find relatives who have already arrived in France through humanitarian corridors.
As is the practice of Sant’Egidio, the refugees will be distributed in several reception areas: Eure-et-Loir, Tarn, Ardèche and Seine-et-Marne.
The stories of those who have already arrived show that it is not only possible to save those at risk of falling into the hands of human traffickers, but also to embark on paths of integration.
At a time when helping those most in need seems increasingly difficult, the humanitarian corridors program shows the growth of solidarity and generosity of many French people (some of whom have even offered a second home for hospitality), and their free and gratuitous commitment.
In France, newcomers are managed by groups (associations, parishes, communities, families…) in 40 French departments, thanks to the work of more than 2,500 volunteers.
The priority is for them to learn the French language and for their children to receive immediate schooling.
Once they have obtained refugee status, the adults will be guided towards professional integration, with the aim of becoming independent within a year and leaving community housing for the sake of new incoming families.
With the new arrivals, there have now been 471 people welcomed in France (out of the 500 provided for by the first protocol) since July 2017, of which almost half are children or adolescents.
(Source: Sant’Egidio; translation/adaptation: Novena)