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December 15 2015

What are the humanitarian corridors? Interviewing Daniela Pompei

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The Memorandum of Understanding between the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Cooperation, the Italian Home Office, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the federation of the Evangelical Churches and the Waldesian Churches has been signed on 14th December 2015. This regards the humanitarian channels that allow refugees to arrive to Italy legally and, most of all, safely - avoiding the journeys of death in the Mediterranean.

To better understand this project we have interviewed
Daniela Pompei, responsible of the services to migrants of the Community of Sant'Egidio.

 What is the project: "Opening of the Humanitarian Corridors"?

It's the possibility of allowing in a legal way people that find themselves in vulnerable situations and that are potential asylum seekers in the neighbouring countries of countries at war. It is intended especially for women alone with children, for victims of human trafficking, for the elderly, for people with disabilities or who are ill. The countries involved at the moment are Lebanon, where there are Syrian refugees and Morocco, where there are not just Syrian refugees but also migrants from Sub-saharan Africa. The project simply consists in the possibility of allowing entrance with a regular visa (specifically, through article 25 of the European regulation of visas). It's a visa for humanitarian reasons, a visa to get into Italy, so the people that are allowed this visa can only enter Italy. Once they get to Italy, we can start the procedure to apply for political asylum, as refugees do when they land on our coast.

The main goal of this project is to avoid human trafficking, avoid deaths at sea, and show that it is possible to utilise other channels of entry other than the pontoons of death.

Who are the major players of the project?

The Memorandum of Understanding for this project has been approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Cooperation (general directorate for Italians overseas and migrant politics), by the Italian Home Office (in particular the department of civil liberties and the immigration), the Community of Sant'Egidio, the federation of the Evangelical Churches of Italy and the Waldesian Churches. For the first time it's an ecumenical project between the Catholic church and the Evangelical Churches. It is completely self-funded by these associations, so the civil society and the Churches take on the responsibility to say "we can contribute together with the State to allow people in a regulated way". We have also players with which we collaborate in the chosen countries, such as the Community John XXIII (that has some members in Lebanon living in a camp). Within these countries we will listen to the people that work and live in these situations. We will use the collaboration of institutional organisations and bodies, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, embassies, state departments. We will also speak to non-institutional agents, such as churches, the Catholic church, associations and movements. At the moment, one thousand people will be able to come in through this channel. They will ask "How do you choose the people?". We will take decisions ourselves and will consult these players: there will be people from the Community of Sant'Egidio, of the Federation of the Evangelical Churches of Italy and of the Waldesian Church which will get there via missions or stay permanently, which will listen to the stories and will identify the unique cases.

How many will the beneficiaries of the project be in this first phase?

The project considers the entry of one thousand people in 24 months, and will start very soon in Morocco with 150 visas and in Lebanon with 250 visas. After these 400 people that will arrive in Italy, there will be an evaluation period when we will consider to create a desk in Ethiopia. So the countries involved may be three: between the end of December and January we will start from Lebanon and by the end of January we will start in Morocco.

What about the welcoming in Italy?

The Community of Sant'Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical churches and the Waldesian Churches will take care of the welcoming, of finding places to live for the refugees, and of the economic assistance whilst the asylum seeker's application is being processed. The funds come from the 0.8% donations to the Waldesian Church, 0.8% donations to the State, from private donations and from the 0.5% donations to the Community of Sant'Egidio.

Could the opening of the humanitarian corridors have an effect on security?

All the individuals that will come will receive a visa from the embassies, so they will be monitored. The list of people who will come in will be examined by the Home Office, which will grant authorisations on the named list. Afterwards, the checks that are normally done for the granting of the visas will be carried out - so for example fingerprints will be taken before departure. Therefore, this is a project that also guarantees security.

Is it a replicable model?

It's a pilot project to show that, by utilising legislative tools that are already available to the European Union without altering the political asylum system, it is possible to grant entry for certain people. It is therefore a replicable project in other countries, together with the civil society. This summer after the death of Aylan, after the flux of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees, many associations and the world of civil society have mobilised, in the heart of Europe. This is a concrete chance to intervene on this sector.

Germany has declared to be against establishing a maximum amount on the number of asylum seekers...

Angela Merkel proved to be a corageous and woman and forward-looking woman that looks beyond political polls. She completely understood that the people that we see today, who we see as ill and desperate, are actually a resource for both the future of Germany and the whole of Europe (which is living an ageing phase within its own population).

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