More than 3,000 refugees have reached Europe safely and legally via the “humanitarian corridors” set up by the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio across national and religious lines.

Driving the news

Last January 31, 86 Syrian refugees from Lebanon arrived in Rome thanks to the humanitarian corridors of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches of Italy and the Italian Waldensian Church.

Like the more than 2,000 people who have so far arrived in Italy by means of these corridors, these refugees will be taken in by Church associations, parishes and communities in several Italian regions.

Pathways to full integration will be set up through schooling for minors, adult language learning and job placement, once the new arrivals have obtained refugee status.

The humanitarian corridors, fully self-financed (thanks to the collection of funds from Sant’Egidio and the donation from income tax of Waldensian Church) – and which are possible thanks to a widespread reception network – are an effective model for refugee welcome that combines solidarity and security.

In fact, the model has already been copied in other countries such as France, Belgium and Andorra, which in total have allowed the arrival of more than 3,000 people in Europe, legally and safely, since February 2016.

Four years of dedication from civil society show that it is possible not only to save those who are in danger of falling into the hands of human traffickers, but also of implementing routes to the integration of refugees.

At a time when worrying manifestations of racism and intolerance are resurfacing, the model that Sant’Egidio and the Protestant churches have set in motion – which have subsequently been reproduced by other Church groups and associations – has achieved the consensus of many.

The humanitarian corridors for refugees are only possible thanks to the generosity of many Italians, some of whom have offered their homes and taken on volunteer roles.

A new opportunity for vulnerable refugees in France

It’s by no means just in Italy that the humanitarian corridors have had success.

Previously, on January 29, another 33 Syrian refugees from Lebanon arrived on a flight to Paris thanks to the welcome and integration model organised by Sant’Egidio in France with the collaboration of the Protestant Churches, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Secour Catholique-Caritas.

These new arrivals in France are people in vulnerable situations, such as the elderly, people with disabilities and families; half of those who have reached French territory are between 2 months and 18 years old.

These refugees will be received and integrated in different regions in the country, thanks to the voluntary work of Christian organisations, associations and individuals.

Jews host a Muslim refugee family in Milan

The humanitarian corridors for refugees in Italy, France and other countries have proven themselves to be a viable and desirable proposal for Europe, to relaunch that solidarity that is in danger of going missing on a continent divided over the refugee crisis.

But the humanitarian corridors have also demonstrated their potential for building up interfaith cooperation as well, as in the case of the Syrian Muslim family that arrived in Milan January 28 to “Welcome” banners displayed in the airport.

The reception of the seven people that make up that family of refugees (parents with four children and another relative) will be the responsibility of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) and the Jewish Community of Milan.

Members of those Jewish groups will collaborate with the Community of Sant’Egidio to integrate newcomers to the Lombardy capital, thus expanding the alliance for refugees that has been built up between communities of people of different denominations and religions.

(With information from Sant’Egidio)

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.