Pope Greets Refugees Helped Through Christian ‘Corridors’
Alice Ritchie, AFP, March 18, 2023
Pope Francis on Saturday greeted thousands of refugees brought to Europe by Christian charities, recognising their difficult journeys and hailing their desire to “live free from fear and insecurity”.
At the Paul VI hall in the Vatican, the 86-year-old pontiff also thanked those who helped the refugees settle into their new lives, saying that “welcome is the first step towards peace”.
The audience included many of the 6,000 people who have been helped to Europe through “humanitarian corridors” run by Christian groups since 2016.
The scheme, initiated by the Catholic Sant’Egidio community in Italy and later extended to France and Belgium, involves people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and Ukraine among others.
The humanitarian corridors were set up to provide an alternative to the deadly sea crossing, where more than 26,000 people have lost their lives since 2014, according to the United Nations.
Under the corridor scheme, the European governments involved agree to issue visas, which the charities then use to bring over the most vulnerable — whether victims of persecution, families with children, the elderly or infirm.
When the refugees arrive, the charities provide them with housing, language and skills training, and help them apply for asylum.
About 5,000 of the refugees brought in since 2016 are in Italy, where the Italian Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Waldensian Church are also involved.
Another 600 went to France, according to Sant’Egidio.