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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It may not be perfect but

Italy's humanitarian corridor for migrants provides safe alternative to smugglers' routes

Church groups hope small program to bring refugees safely to Europe can be scaled up across continent

It's hard not to look at the group of 81 travellers crowded into a waiting room in Terminal 5 of Rome's Fiumicino airport and imagine alternative fates for them: trapped and hungry in Aleppo, Syria; losing hope in a crammed migrant holding centre in Greece; drowning while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Since the start of this year — a short span in a crisis that has lasted over a decade — more than 200,000 people escaping conflict and hardship in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have made it to Europe by boat. Almost 3,000 have died en route, in most cases, drowning after the overcrowded vessels they were travelling in sank.
An unknown number of others die along the migrants' desert route to Libya. Last week's gruesome discovery of 34 bodies in Niger was the most recent reminder of that.

But at the Rome airport, the recent group of several dozen mainly Syrian refugees, many with urgent medical problems, arrived safely thanks to a new private sponsorship initiative that functions as a humanitarian corridor — a safe, legal alternative to the dangerous routes smugglers have been using to get to Europe for years. 
The program is the result of a collaboration between the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay association, and the Federation of Protestant Churches of Italy, with the backing of Italy's foreign and interior ministries.

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