“This is a significant milestone to us”, Luca Negro, President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI), said from France, commenting on the arrival of the first French humanitarian corridor at the Charles de Gaulle Airport tonight. Four families (16 people in total including three children), mainly from the Syrian city of Homs that was almost razed to the ground by the war, are scheduled to arrive on a flight from Lebanon. Upon arrival in France, they will be welcomed by the cities of Nimes and Le Mans. This is the Humanitarian Corridors project. In Italy, it has been running for 1.5 years and has already brought to our country 850 people from refugee camps in Lebanon on board 14 flights. Tonight the project will “land” in France thanks to a memorandum of understanding signed, at the Élysée Palace on 14 March 2017 in the presence of the then President François Hollande, by the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Sant’Egidio Community, the Protestant Federation of France, and the French Bishops’ Conference. The goal of the Memorandum is to identify, receive and integrate 500 people over the next 18 months.
“France – Mr Negro said – is the first European country to follow the example set by Italy, a tested good practice carried out in an ecumenical spirit by Protestants and Catholics who have mobilised together to facilitate the safe reception of people who have lost everything because of war and persecution”. The Churches and the Sant’Egidio Community have liaised with other countries in Europe (including Germany and Switzerland). “We are convinced that this model can be exported because it is based on the Schengen parameters which allow Member States to grant visas on humanitarian grounds, and also because it is the opposite of an uncontrolled migration”. “Not only do humanitarian corridors guarantee the safety of the people arriving who will not be forced to journey to death on dinghies – the President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy concluded -, but they also ensure the safety of the host country because these people are selected based on their vulnerable situation in their home countries”.