Syrian Refugees Leave Beirut For Resettlement In Italy
Eighty-one refugees, most of them Syrian, flew from Beirut to Italy under a project organised by a Catholic charity.
The refugees were selected as part of a European project called ''Humanitarian Corridors'' organised by Italy-based Catholic charity Sant'Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Valdese Evangelical Church. The project is backed by Italy's interior and foreign ministries.
Under the project, some 200 refugees have left Lebanon to set up a new life in Italy since February.
''Humanitarian corridors were promoted by the community of Sant'Egidio a Catholic charity known all over the world because we cooperated with the Holy Father in rescuing the 12 refugees from Lesbos. And with the cooperation of the Protestant churches of Italy, we prepare this project that permit already to invite 200 refugees from Lebanon. Today, the project will permit to other 81 Syrian refugees to arrive to Italy,'' said Massimiliano Signifredi, from the charity Sant'Egidio.
In April, Sant' Egidio brought over 12 Syrian refugees on Pope Francis' return flight from the island of Lesbos in Greece. Those families have been housed in local communities.
There are more than 1 million refugees in Lebanon who have fled the conflict in Syria.
Signifredi said many of those chosen to live in Italy were refugees with special medical cases as well as single parents and orphans.
He said the process of selecting refugees under the project ensures the safety of the refugees as well as the security of the host state.
''Humanitarian corridors is a project to preserve humanity, is based on solidarity but also on security because each person arriving to Italy must be selected and has to give the finger print so the maximum security for the state,'' he said.
A day ahead of their departure, the refugees gathered in a playground and building of a school in Beirut.
They had been living in Lebanon for the past two years.
Shady al-Yousef was one of them. He said the process was seamless.
''We found out about this project through charities, a charity we were registered in because we have a medical case. They referred them to us and they visited us at home and saw our medical cases and agreed to let us travel. It is a very good initiative and it was fast and there was a lot of attention given and hardly any complications,'' he said.
Olivia Lopez Curzi, a legal assistant to the project said although the numbers were small, the message behind the initiative was strong.
''Unfortunately it is just a tiny drop, the numbers are very little, but I think that the message is very powerful,'' she said, as she helped people prepare for their flight.
Sant' Egidio, working alongside government authorities, aims to house 1,000 refugees from various countries in Italy over two years.
At the airport, the refugees expressed hope of a better future, as well as sadness at having to leave their adopted home.
Ali Idriss, a chef and a student, said he hoped "life there would be happier and we have a new future''.
While another man Khaled Abdo said he was "sad for leaving Lebanon because that is where our families are at the moment". But he said moving to Italy would be better for his son, who is in need of specialist medical treatment.