An agreement has now been signed to open a humanitarian corridor from Lebanon to France. Last month, an Italian humanitarian corridor pilot project which has brought approximately 700 Syrian refugees safely and legally from Lebanon to Italy celebrated its first anniversary.
Pastor Luca Maria Negro is President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI). He described the new corridor as “an outstanding achievement” which offers protection and counters human trafficking.
The French government are signatories and have committed to offer 500 humanitarian visas to vulnerable Syrian citizens in Lebanon over the next 18 months. Families with young children, single women, elderly, sick and disabled people are all expected to qualify for the initiative. Lebanon currently hosts over 1 million refugees.
The Daily Star (Lebanon) reports that French President Francois Hollande commented upon signing the agreement:
“Europe and France are facing an unprecedented wave of refugees, because of its scale and because of its causes. Everything is adding up – there are wars, especially in Iraq and Syria; there are conflicts that we must not forget in Africa, Sudan, South-Sudan; there are acts of violence, committed in a certain number of countries that we recognise, such as Eritrea; and then, there is terrorism or fanaticism, driving people to leave their homes to look for safety and tranquillity in Europe.”
Like the Italian initiative, the French humanitarian corridors are the result of ecumenical cooperation between Protestant and Catholic organisations. Fédération Protestante de France (FPF) are working with the Community of Sant’Egidio, the French Bishops’ Conference and Entraide Protestante and the Secours Catholique to set up welcome centres.
Pastor Negro explained that the Italian pilot “proved that the project is sustainable and repeatable”.
“The strong relations between our two federations [FCEI and FPF] allow us to consider joint actions and plans that aim to promote the model of humanitarian corridors in other European countries, so that it becomes a real mean of intervention and management of some quotas of migratory the flows moving towards Europe.”