Thursday, January 19, 2017

Church & Sant’Egidio to open safe corridors for vulnerable African refugees

Refugees from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia will be able to journey ‘safely’ to Europe thanks to a humanitarian corridor between Ethiopia and Italy.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) on Thursday signed an agreement with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation foreseeing the opening of the safe space which will allow vulnerable people who have the right to enter Italy to avoid the so-called journeys of death that take them across the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea as they flee violence and persecution.

The news was announced on Wednesday by Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, Secretary General of CEI, during a press conference for January 15th’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Archbishop Galantino said the humanitarian corridor is part of the Church’s project to assist refugees and comes to life in collaboration with Caritas Italiana, Fondazione Migrantes and the Saint Egidio Community.

He said some five hundred vulnerable Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali refugees who are currently located in camps in Ethiopia and are in particularly difficult situations have already been identified.

The project which aims to save lives follows a similar initiative which has already been successfully implemented by the Community of Saint Egidio in collaboration with the Waldensian Table.

Thanks to that initiative hundreds of mainly Syrian refugees have been able to travel to Italy with a humanitarian visa with limited territorial validity, the costs of which are covered by the associations themselves. 

Saint Egidio points out that these visas also have the advantage of increased security because thorough checks are carried out and digital fingerprints taken.

Archbishop Galantino said the cost of these journeys by plane or boat, plus accommodation and legal assistance costs, will be covered by the Italian “eight per thousand” voluntary contribution tax paid to the Catholic Church.

Upon arrival in Italy, refugees will be able to take part in an integration programme, which will include Italian lessons, help with finding a job and school enrolment for children.

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