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Humanitarian corridors becoming a reality

4 May May 2016 1137 04 May 2016
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For the Syrian refugee crisis, many believe the obvious solution be humanitarian corridors. As demilitarized zones that are designed to allow the safe transit of humanitarian aid and refugees out of a crisis region, humanitarian corridors represent a means of safe escape for those caught in conflict.

An obvious solution?

Despite their seeming simplicity, humanitarian corridors remain problematic. Due to their limited geographical scope, they are “not an ideal solution,” according to Ruba Afani, spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jordan.

Not only that, but aid workers worry that humanitarian rhetoric could be used to further political aims. “There are certain interest groups that would like to have a humanitarian corridor because it would improve the position of the opposition,” says one aid worker*.

The humanitarian corridors are a first in Europe

Italian deputy Foreign Minister, Mario Giro

Furthermore, governments would have to agree to a corridor, and then abide by its agreement. Currently, there is no Security Council resolution authorizing such an intervention. “Despite their neutral character, the success of humanitarian truces, zones, or corridors will inevitably rely on the international community’s political will to take coercive action in protecting civilians in Syria,” says Claude Bruderlein, director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University.

Many remain skeptical. “I would expect the Assad government to bombard or starve any such territory,” said Ian Hurd, an expert in International law and Associate Professor of political science at Northwestern University in Illinois

Humanitarian corridors in action

Despite the skepticism, in Italy humanitarian corridors have become a reality. On the initiative of three Christian groups and the Italian government, there have been three arrivals of refugees through humanitarian corridors since the December agreement made between the Italian government (ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior), the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) and Tavola Valdese.

The humanitarian corridors are becoming bridges that promote legal and transparent access to Europe

Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio

The latest arrivals are 97 Syrians and four Iraqis - including 44 children, 14 cases of serious illness or disability, and 10 single women headed households. They arrived to Italy from Beirut on an Alitalia flight, in the framework of the pilot initiative of the humanitarian corridors.

The use of the humanitarian corridor has so far allowed people fleeing from war and “conditions of vulnerability” (victims of persecution, torture and violence, families with children, single women, the elderly, the sick, persons with disabilities) to arrive, safely and legally to Italy, without risking their lives in the Mediterranean.

Coming from Homs, Damascus, Hama, Aleppo, Hassaka, Baghdad. 37 of them (35%) are Christians. Among them there are Shoshn, an Assyrian Christian from Hassaké, Kevorc, an Armenian from Aleppo, Sami and Ghazala from Homs who have a child affected by thalassemia.

Best practice?

Deemed “an important example of acceptance and integration for all of Europe”, this is the third arrival through the initative that has gone from experiment to concrete reality.

The founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Andrea Riccardi, pointed out that the arrival of refugees marks “an important day: the humanitarian corridors are becoming bridges that promote legal and transparent access to Europe. Moreover, they favor those refugees who have been living in very fragile conditions (often in camps), which frequently causes tragic fates. Here we have people coming from under siege Aleppo, Palestinian refugees in Syria who underwent a new exodus. There are people who come from Iraq, for the most part Muslims, but also Christians (30%)”.

The initiative foresees the arrival of a thousand people in two years, not only from Lebanon, but also from Morocco and Ethiopia.

The humanitarian corridors are a first in Europe. As ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior, we have welcomed the idea of [the Community of] Sant’Egidio, the Waldensian and the Protestant churches in Italy, because such tool is one of those that can be put in place, aiming at integration into society. The group arrived today is comprised of families also with sick children: some need to be operated and in Italy they will receive adequate care,” said deputy Foreign Minister, Mario Giro at Fiumicino airport in Rome, where he was welcoming the latest families to have reached Italy.

To learn more about the stories of the latest arrivals, watch the video below:

Photo credits: STRINGER/Andrea Solaro

Sourced from Onu Italia