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Pope Praises Christian “Corridors” Helping Refugees

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Saturday welcomed thousands of refugees brought to Europe by Christian charities, acknowledging their difficult journeys and welcoming their desire to “live free from fear and insecurity”.

In the Paul VI Hall At the Vatican, the 86-year-old pope also thanked those who helped the refugees settle into their new lives, saying that “welcome is the first step to peace”.

Those listening included many of the 6,000 people who have been helped since 2016 through “humanitarian corridors” led by Christian groups into Europe.

The program, which was initiated by the Catholic Sant’Egidio community in Italy and later expanded to France and Belgium, involves people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and Ukraine, among others.

“I’m delighted to meet so many refugees and their families…each of you deserves attention for the harsh history you have endured,” Francis told them.

“You have shown a determination to live free from fear and uncertainty.”

He paid particular tribute to those who survived the dire conditions in the internment camps in Libya, the preferred departure point for many of the tens of thousands of people who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe each year.

Limited routes

The humanitarian corridors were set up to provide an alternative to the deadly sea crossing, which has claimed more than 26,000 lives since 2014, according to the United Nations.

Saturday’s event comes just weeks after a migrant boat was shipwrecked off the south coast of Italy, killing at least 87 people.

In a copy of his speech released by the Vatican, the pope referred to the disaster, saying, “Everything must be done to prevent it from happening again.”

However, he provided the audience with a much shorter version and made no mention of the shipwreck.

Many migrants and asylum seekers are turning to leaky, overcrowded boats because legal routes to Europe are limited.

The number of asylum applications in Europe in 2022 reached levels last seen during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis, when more than a million arrived on the continent.

But the question of who should take responsibility for the arrivals creates great tensions between the member states.

‘A dream’

As part of the corridor program, the European governments involved agree to issue visas, which the charities then use to bring in the weakest – be they victims of persecution, families with children, the elderly or the infirm.

When the refugees arrive, the charities provide them with housing, language and skills training, and help them apply for asylum.

The first humanitarian corridor opened passed through Lebanon, with Italy offering visas to 1,000 Syrians who had fled there.

A Syrian woman named Anna spoke at Saturday’s event and described her family’s journey from Aleppo to Lebanon and then to Italy.

The plan “seems like a dream, a chance to live in peace,” she said before being welcomed by the pope.

Francis said the corridors aim to ensure “life, salvation and then dignity”.

Around 5,000 of the refugees admitted 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.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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