Italy opens humanitarian corridor for 300 Afghan refugees | National policy


MILAN (AP) — The first of some 300 Afghan refugees arrived in Rome on Monday along a new humanitarian corridor organized by the Italian government, charities and international organizations, Italy’s foreign ministry said.

The humanitarian corridor aims to give “more refugees and persecuted Afghans the chance for a future with dignity and security” after the US withdrawal last August and the resumption of control by the Taliban, the ministry said.

Thousands of Afghan citizens were evacuated after the fall of Kabul, but many who risked reprisals from the Taliban were left behind. The Foreign Ministry said the corridor, which envisages the transfer of 1,200 Afghan refugees from Iran, Pakistan and other neighboring countries, would prioritize women and children.

The first nine Afghan refugees arrived on a flight from Tehran. Another 200 fly from Islamabad on Wednesday with a third group arriving from Tehran on Thursday.

At the same time, the number of Afghan refugees using smuggling routes is increasing, with some 3,280 arriving in Italy by sea so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency. The International Organization for Migration said Afghans are the first nationality to dare the perilous route from the central Mediterranean Sea to European shores, with 8,121 arrivals up to last Friday.

The two organizations participated in the organization of the corridor transfers, alongside the Italian foreign and interior ministries and charities, including the Community of Sant’Egidio and Caritas.

Italy has been trying for several years to set up humanitarian corridors so that people fleeing conflict, persecution or other serious situations have an alternative to the clandestine passage of human traffickers. But the number of those who can reach other countries through these corridors is small compared to the tens of thousands who rely on smugglers to reach Europe.

In Sicily, Italian authorities, including border police, have arrested for investigation into the trafficking of five Egyptians who were among 674 survivors aboard an overcrowded fishing boat that was rescued off the southern coast last week Italy, the Italian news agency ANSA announced on Monday. Rescuers found five bodies aboard the fishing boat. Those who died suffered from dehydration and excessive heat, ANSA said.

The suspects were being investigated in the Sicilian port of Messina for allegedly facilitating illegal migration and death from another crime, ANSA said. Many rescued migrants were transferred to Messina on Sunday.

Some survivors told authorities that smugglers beat them with clubs and belts during the sea voyage and heavily rationed drinking water on the boat, ANSA said.

In total, Italian authorities and charity ships reported rescuing more than 1,100 people in the Mediterranean Sea last weekend.

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