Lively eyes and a happy, clever glance: Dia is an eight-year-old boy. He was playing in Homs with his friends when they were hit by a mortar attack in front of his house. The bomb devastated his leg. The Zanardi Foundation in Bologna will take care of Dia and provide him with a prosthetic leg thanks to the contribution of the “Bimbi in gamba” Association.
Dia and his mother are among the group of refugees arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino airport from Lebanon on February 29. 93 people all together, 41 of whom are children. Omar, born a few days ago, is the youngest. At a time of shipwrecks and deaths at sea, they will land in Italy safely and legally thanks to the ecumenical project on “humanitarian corridors”. The pilot initiative is realized in the framework of an agreement signed in mid-December between the Italian government, the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Waldensian community.
In a situation torn between those invoke new walls and those who call for bridges, in a Europe that is still unable to conceive a “political” solution to the challenge of reception, the humanitarian corridors project is presented as a way to ensure safe migration for those who leave and for those who receive them. People are selected on the basis of their vulnerability. Sara Manisera, responsible for the Mediterranean Hope project with Simone Scotta and Francesco Piobbico, coordinators of the humanitarian corridor from Beirut, explained the details of their efforts at local level.
“We visit personally all the identified families – Sara said –with the help of an Italian physician, Luciano Griso. We check their documents and ask them to fill out a qualitative form that includes questions on their educational and professional qualifications, in order to further their integration once they arrive in Italy.” At that point a list of names is sent to the Ministry of Interior and after having taken their fingerprints at the embassy, the families are allowed to take flight.
The family of Falak, a child with cancer, arrived in Italy past February 4 following this procedure. Also in this case the majority of refugees have fled from Homs, the Syrian city almost completely razed to the ground. Others come from Iraq, fleeing from war and persecution. All refugees experienced situations of serious vulnerability.
Returning home now is impossible.
They arrived in Lebanon with the intention of staying there only until the end of the. But the months became years and the money set aside finished, forcing entire families to leave their rented apartments to seek refuge in garages and then in tents, in the refugee camps.
Giorgina is a young 30-year-old woman who arrived in Aleppo. She studied economics, got married, and now she has two children, one aged 5 and the other one-and-a half years old. She used to lead a comfortable life in Aleppo: she and her husband ran a factory of wooden items and a shop in the citadel. With the outbreak of the war they lost everything. Last year their oldest son suffered a psychological choc and since then he stopped talking.
Badia is a 50-year-old woman who was widowed. Thanks to her generosity and her resourcefulness she became the point of reference of a large group of people arriving in the refugee camp of Tel Abbas, 4 kilometers from Syria. They all worked as bricklayers, electricians, they led a respectable life. They had a job and a home. They lost everything. “They had just enough time to fill a couple of suitcases and flee – said Sara -. A few photographs is all that is left of their past life. It’s all of their world.”
Humanitarian corridors. “It’s an innovative, experimental project”, Sara pointed out. “It’s innovative because it’s the first time that civil society creates a project at grassroots level. It brought together various forms of associations and together they contacted, negotiated and opened a communication channel with the Italian government. It’s still in the testing phase, as the Italian government responded with the issuance of one thousand two-year visas. Moreover, this experience can be replicated by other organizations in different Countries, involving the respective governments.”
Once they arrive in Italy, the families will be relocated in various areas of the Country, hosted by the structures made available by the promoters of the project and by their partners. Among the destinations figure the cities of Trento, Reggio Emilia, Turin, Aprilia. Preparations for their reception are in full swing, along with solidarity initiatives: Alitalia, for example, has offered free flights for the refugees.