Pope promotes humanitarian corridors to Europe – politics
The Pope’s big event on Saturday in the Vatican with migrants from the south, although it had been planned for a long time, could not have been timed more appropriately after the recent boat accidents in the Mediterranean Sea, in which more than a hundred people, including many children, lost their lives and of the expected rapid increase in dangerous crossings in the coming months. And during a heated discussion in Italyhow to respond to the ever more pressing challenge of migration.
Up to 700,000 people in North Africa are said to be waiting to make the crossing to Europe, and a number of reasons are given for this: the usually unusually mild weather for the time of year, as well as the difficult economic situation in Tunisia, where many people are waiting for the chance to make the crossing . An increasing number of refugees moving up from sub-Saharan Africa, and allegedly even active support for the smugglers by the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Last but not least, the growing demand for the route from the east of the Mediterranean, around the southern tip of Greece; the boat that crashed off the coast of Calabria had come this way.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government has so far failed to get the issue under control. At first she lacked sympathy and sometimes even branded the victims as perpetrators: If only they had stayed at home! Late this week, Meloni welcomed 30 survivors who the military had to fly in from Calabria to her seat of government, the Palazzo Chigi. The meeting took place in a strictly shielded manner, and information is now leaking to the public. It is reported that the prime minister was clearly insecure and lacked empathy. She asked whether people were not aware of the risks of the crossing. “But we had to flee from the Taliban,” she said, for example. There it was again, the incomprehension of those in government that people are so desperate that they take all the dangers upon themselves.
Meloni insists that in order to prevent further disasters, the main thing is to put a stop to the smugglers’ work, and the penalties for this should be massively tightened. And many of their supporters would add: And it’s about making the trip to Europe unattractive – also by being tough on the boat people and their rescuers; here, too, there were tightenings.
Rescued report about their escape
The Pope now pointed to a morally more appealing alternative by spotlighting an initiative that refugees from the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean without abandoning them to their fate. The project essentially goes back to the community of Sant’ Egidio, a worldwide lay organization with its headquarters in Rome, which also enjoys a high reputation in the Vatican. The Pope’s large audience hall was filled to capacity with many thousands of guests on Saturday, when Francis expressed his gratitude to the refugees and their helpers in a moving ceremony. Some of the rescued told their escape stories. Helpers also spoke about their experiences.
The community of Sant’Egidio, together with the Italian Caritas, evangelical Christians in Italy and several European governments, have found a way that is called: humanitarian corridors. That’s what it said in Italian on the badges of the event: Corridoi Umanitari, and below it in English, French, Arabic – but not in German, because the Federal Republic of Germany has not yet participated in this program.
The Humanitarian Corridors project was conceived in 2015
The Pope emphasized that escaping via safe corridors is an important alternative to the often deadly route by sea. It is estimated that since 1990 more than 60,000 people have been imprisoned trying to reach Europe Mediterranean Sea perished. The “Humanitarian Corridors” project was conceived in 2015, after serious shipwrecks off Lampedusa and in the Sicilian Channel that left hundreds dead. It ties in with a little-known provision of European law. Article 25 of Regulation No. 810/2009 of 13 July 2009 allows EU countries to issue limited-scope humanitarian visas, valid only for a single country.
On December 15, 2015, the Community of Sant’Egidio, together with the Evangelical Churches of Italy and in agreement with the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, signed the protocol for the opening of the first humanitarian corridors. A thousand visas for the same number of Syrian refugees from camps in Lebanon were provided, with more deals later following. According to the organizers, a total of 6,800 people have reached Europe this way, including many children. Most of them came to Italy, but France, Belgium, Andorra and the Republic of San Marino also participate.
Sant’ Egidio is also active in Germany
The attempt to get a hearing in Germany has not been successful so far, according to the community. Sant’ Egidio is also active in Germany and has excellent relationships with both Christian churches and also with Judaism. An essential requirement of the program would therefore be easy to fulfill: the participation of civil society. Because it is absolutely necessary.
After a state has provided a certain number of visas, the employees of Sant’ Egidio select refugees on site, for example in Lebanon. These are by no means only Christians, mostly Muslims who are particularly vulnerable: mothers who have lost their husbands, with many children, people who have suffered violence, families with sick children and disabled people. They receive visas and are brought to Italy on regular scheduled flights, where they are accommodated throughout the country in cooperation with churches, associations, groups and private individuals. They receive language lessons, schooling and other help and are integrated into the structures of the host country.
Admittedly, the humanitarian corridors have so far only managed to accommodate a small number of refugees compared to the many who continue to arrive by boat. In Sant’Egidio, however, one is convinced: If this project of civil society in Europe were flanked by the state on a large scale and applied in more and more countries, a much larger number of people could be saved. “Humanitarian corridors are a way to avoid the tragedies and dangers of human trafficking,” the Pope said. “But much work is still needed to expand this model. There is a safe, orderly, regular and sustainable migration in the interests of all countries.”