“When people of good join together, you can offer hope”

The first arrivals under the French humanitarian corridors project landed at Charles de Gaulle airport on 5 July.

500 refugees will be welcomed to Paris over the next 18 months in the ecumenical scheme which has the agreement of the French government and is backed by 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.

The scheme is a pilot based on the year old Italian humanitarian corridor project which is a partnership between the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI) and the Community of Sant’Egidio which has so far welcomed 850 refugees – mostly Syrian – from Lebanon.

As the four Syrian and Iraqui families stepped down from the regular Air France Beirut-Paris flight, Jean Fontanieu from Entraide Protestante excitedly described it as “a victory over shame, death and fatality”.

“When people of good join together, you can offer hope”

He added:

“On July 5, thanks to humanitarian corridors, desperate men and women will be able to start living again.”

Damian Jackson visited FCEI projects run by Mediterranean Hope in April this year and wrote on Focus on Refugees about the benefits of humanitarian corridors, describing the Italian scheme as “creative approach to addressing the extreme danger faced by people fleeing poverty and oppression”.

He listed how humanitarian corridors address many of the problems currently evident in Mediterranean migration:

  • the most vulnerable (not just the best–resourced) people are enabled to travel;
  • they travel legally on a humanitarian visa;
  • they are safely transported;
  • they do not face the dehumanisation of arriving with nothing as they can take their belongings with them;
  • all of the participating people are vetted by the state authorities;
  • it combats human trafficking and smuggling;
  • they are welcomed and provided with legal assistance, hospitality, economic support (provided by the churches), integration assistance and training for one year after arrival.