Pope Francis on Saturday welcomed thousands of refugees brought to Europe by Christian organisations through humanitarian corridors, acknowledging their wish to “live free from fear and insecurity.”
During an audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the 86-year-old pope thanked organisations that have helped refugees, stressing that welcoming them represents “the first step towards peace”. Received were many of the 6,000 refugees who have been able to reach Europe through “humanitarian corridors” set up by Christian organisations since 2016.
This scheme, initiated by the Sant’Egidio Catholic community in Italy and then taken up in France and Belgium, includes refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and Ukraine.
“Each of you deserves attention for the difficult history you have lived,” the Pope told the refugees. “You have shown a firm will to live free from fear and insecurity.”
Pope Francis paid particular tribute to the survivors of the very harsh conditions in detention camps in Libya, the departure point for the tens of thousands of migrants who attempt the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe every year.
Humanitarian corridors were set up to offer an alternative to the dangerous sea journeys that cost thousands of lives every year, and the possibility of legal entry into Europe via the granting of humanitarian visas.
European governments involved in the scheme issue humanitarian visas that NGOs use to legally transport the most vulnerable, families with children, victims of persecution, the elderly or the sick.