The Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (Federazione delle Chiese Evangeliche in Italia, FCEI) is an ecumenical Protestant body in Italy
The Community of Sant’Egidio is a lay Catholic association dedicated to social service, founded in 1968
It is the first project in Europe that aims to avoid the journey across the Mediterranean Sea aboard of barges, which have already caused countless deaths, to stop exploitation by human traffickers, to grant vulnerable people a “legal and safe entry” into Italy, through the necessary security controls by national authorities.
To help refugees become self-sufficient and integrate swiftly into Italian society, the organization offers a year of support including housing, legal aid and language classes. These are all paid for through its private funds.
Target VG and type of host community
Vulnerable asylum-seekers: The list of possible beneficiaries of humanitarian corridors is screened by the Ministry of the Interior after receiving a first list of the cases most in need of protection in the Countries included in the programme, from the Community of Sant’Egidio the Federation of Evangelical Churches and ‘Tavola Valdese’. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation subsequently carries out the controls necessary for the issue of a visa.
Application setting: context
Humanitarian Corridors has its origin in the sinking of a boat carrying refugees and migrants off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013. More than 300 people died. The wreck shocked the country, in part because it happened close to shore.
Established through the cooperation between institutions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Ministry of the Interior, civil society organisations, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches and ‘Tavola Valdese’ of the Waldensian Evangelical Church, humanitarian corridors are an Italian reception programme for migrants in particularly vulnerable conditions. These include single women with children, victims of human trafficking, elderly people and disable or sick people. Humanitarian corridors are the result of a high-profile humanitarian collaboration between the institutions and the Catholic and Protestant world united for a project that envisages the arrival of refugees from Lebanon (mostly Syrian refugees fleeing from the war), Morocco (where migrants come mostly from sub-Saharan countries affected by civil wars and widespread violence) and Ethiopia (Eritrean, Somali and Sudanese).
While looking at the complexity of European regulations, they saw the opportunity to create an additional legal access channel for especially vulnerable asylum-seekers. So far, the beneficiaries have come from Lebanon, with more to follow from Morocco and Ethiopia, in order to intercept the great migratory flows created by war in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, before the refugees take to the sea. As in the case of the UNHCR programme, this initiative provides a safe pathway for refugees, in line with governmental security standards; the potential beneficiaries are pre-selected by the NGOs, then vetted by the Ministry of the Interior and finally granted a humanitarian limited territorial validity visa. The pilot initiative was launched at no cost to the State: the NGOs cover travelling and first reception expenses.
- To avoid boat trips across the Mediterranean
- To prevent the exploitation of persons by traffickers
- To grant people in “vulnerable conditions” (for example, in addition to victims of persecution, torture and violence, families with children, the elderly, the sick, people with disabilities) legal entry into Italian territory by issuing a humanitarian visa and the opportunity to apply for asylum at a later date.
- To combine States and NGOs efforts in order to create an alternate access route to their territories, involving civil society
- To influence European regulations
After the control by the Ministry of the Interior, Italian consular authorities issue humanitarian visas with Limited Territorial Validity, valid only for Italy. Once arrived in Italy refugees can apply for asylum.
Refugees are welcomed at the expense of FCEI, Sant’Egidio Community, etc. in structures or houses all over the country, in collaboration with other partners including the Synodal Commission for Diakonia (CSD), the House of Cultures-MH in Scicli, the Diaconal Centre LA NOCE in Palermo, the Network of Solidarity Municipalities (RECOSOL), Oxfam Italy-.
- Sending volunteers on the spot, who make direct contact with the refugees in the countries affected by the project, prepare a list of potential beneficiaries to be forwarded to the Italian consular authorities.
- Pre-departure job orientation: Candidates are involved in the decision-making process on the working sector and job profile they might be assigned to (ensuring the available skills and the assignments are consistent).
- Once in Italy, beneficiaries are accompanied and supported in a process of legal-integration, focusing on work, school and health in order to achieve a gradual autonomy. The widespread and participatory reception system generates solidarity at an ecumenical level, promotes social inclusion and reinvigorates the local communities involved in the project.
In less than four years Humanitarian Corridors have brought more than 2,000 people to Italy and 350 more to France, in a legal way with a humanitarian visa in their hands. A recently signed agreement will allow 600 more refugees and other vulnerable people to travel from Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Niger.
Difficulties or constrains for its implementation
The greatest difficulty lies in the selection of beneficiaries among the hundreds living in refugee camps. The selection system does not have a clear legal basis even though it is focused on very strong vulnerability criteria.
Another difficulty lies in persuading the States to offer their financial and logistical cooperation.
- The humanitarian corridor project is based on a model of solidarity that can be replicated in other States.
- Migratory flows are coordinated through public and private efforts.
- Providing new, safe ways of accessing international protection for forcibly displaced people, reducing the highly traumatic experience faced in-transit (ex. exploitation and human trafficking)
- The 90% of asylum requests submitted by immigrants taking human corridors has been approved
- As part of the Humanitarian Corridors project, Medical Hope was created, a health initiative that provides medical support to all those refugees who are denied access to treatment in transit countries due to lack of economic resources. Medical Hope is largely supported by the “8×1000” of Christian Evangelical Baptist Union of Italy and is aimed at all those who are not in a position to move to Italy.
- Limitations in numbers: A pathway available to only a few thousand people: While the programme currently covers just a fraction of those arriving overall as asylum-seekers, the organisations behind it are actively working to provide a safer alternative to dangerous sea crossings for an increasing number of people. The organizations behind it hope to see it extended to refugees in detention camps in Libya.
- Candidates are selected according to vulnerability criteria, however as it is a program that deals mainly with integration, they tend to choose those who, over the course of twelve months, can be more easily integrated into the territory.
- Depends on States’ will and continuity of actions when governments are renewed, as well as its collaboration with NGOs, which tend to be criminalised by successive governments.
Year and length (duration)
CRITERIA actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”
Humanitarian corridors are a good model that can be replicated in all Schengen states, as was the case for France where last March the President of the French Republic signed an agreement with the Community of Sant’Egidio, The Catholic Church and the Protestant churches.
The reception and integration systems also involve volunteer organisations in more than 10 Italian regions, which comprise a cornerstone of the project.
Humanitarian Corridors is the Europe regional winner for UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award 2019