On May 30, a group of 95 vulnerable refugees including children, trafficked women who have survived violence and torture, and people in poor health, arrived in Italy from Libya, the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The asylum seekers traveled on a charter flight of the UNHCR, the United Nations Agency for Refugees. It is the first arrival implementing a protocol signed by Italy’s Interior and Foreign Ministries, the UNHCR, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of the Evangelical Churches in Italy, and the Waldensian Board.
The flights were organized according to a new mechanism that combines the best practices of emergency evacuations and humanitarian corridors.
The asylum seekers will be hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio, FCEI, and the Waldensian Board, and they will follow the path of integration according to the model of the humanitarian corridors, except for three unaccompanied foreign minors who, because of their specific vulnerability, will be received in dedicated projects of the national reception system.
“The Italian Foreign Ministry has supported humanitarian rescues and evacuations from Libya with conviction, in close contact with the authorities of that country”, points out Luigi Maria Vignali, Director General of Italians Abroad and Migratory Policies of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. “This once again proves Italy’s commitment to the protection of refugees”.
“This protocol confirms Italy’s role as a European model for legal access routes for refugees and vulnerable individuals”, said Michele di Bari, Head of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration at the Interior Ministry. “It was a brilliant idea to join the skills of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to those of the Interior Ministry and the UNHCR, with the powerful thrust of solidarity provided by the organizations of civil society engaged in social welfare. We are delighted to be able to offer the incoming refugees an opportunity to arrive safely and with real hope for the future”.
“We are grateful to Italy for making these lifesaving operations possible for such vulnerable people. The Italian institutions and civilian society have shown once again the value of working together to receive and integrate the refugees,” said Chiara Cardoletti, Representative of the UNHCR for Italy, the Holy See, and San Marino. “Conditions in Libya remain terrible for people trying to flee that country, and we hope the example and the success of the Italian initiative will be followed soon by other countries”.
“Today, the most important thing is that these people have managed to escape the Libyan lagers. The humanitarian corridors are the first step in a much larger system, one element of a reception system that places solidarity at the center, and which should be shared by all of Europe. As protestant churches, in Lampedusa, we assist people who have fled Libya. They risk losing their lives after enduring unspeakable violence: it must never happen again”, declares Daniele Garrone, President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy.
Since 2017, UNHCR has evacuated or resettled 6,145 refugees and asylum seekers from Libya, 3,313 of them in Italy. Evacuations resumed in November 2021 after a one-year hiatus due to the Libyan authorities’ ban on humanitarian flights. UNHCR estimates that globally more than 2 million refugees will require resettlement in 2023; this is a 36% increase compared to 2022, which affects 1.47 million people.
Regular and safe channels, including emergency evacuations, humanitarian corridors, resettlement, and family reunification, represent a lifeline for refugees, allowing them to rebuild a future in dignity without being forced to undertake dangerous journeys in the hands of traffickers. At the same time, they are a tangible signal of solidarity with the countries hosting the largest refugee populations in the world.