Italian Humanitarian Corridors Awarded UN Refugee Prize

Geneva, 23 September 2019 - More than 2,500 people reached Italy in a safe and organized manner through the Humanitarian Corridors program of a group of Italian religious communities. This year, the program is being celebrated and recognized as an initiative going beyond the call of duty to protect refugees.

The Italian Humanitarian Corridors project has allowed over 2,500 families and individuals to reach Italy in safety since 2015. Photo: Staff from the Community of Sant'Egidio's Humanitarian Corridors team welcome young Syrian refugees at Rome's Fiumicino Airport. © UNHCR/Alessandro Penso Humanitarian corridors in Italy received the 2019 Europe’s Nansen Award, which celebrates everyday heroes who serve refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people in an extraordinary manner. The Italian initiative has provided a safe and legal passage to the country to over 2,500 vulnerable families and individuals since 2015.

Other winners of this year’s regional Nansen Awards include a Congolese activist who champions the rights of those forced to flee their homes and a community volunteer in Jordan, among others. Winners receive a grant of USD 150,000 for a project to assist displaced people, to be developed in consultation with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Humanitarian corridors have been widely successful and have already been replicated in France, Belgium and Andorra. Families and individuals apply for asylum on arrival, and receive comprehensive integration support, which includes housing, legal aid and language classes. People come from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, but also the Horn of Africa. The organizations are now aiming at establishing humanitarian corridors for those who are trapped in detention in Libya.

In Italy, humanitarian corridors are an initiative of the Sant’Egidio Community, Caritas Italiana, the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Waldensian Table. They work in agreement with the Italian Foreign and Interior ministries, and are based on private funding.

The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) has been actively involved in the program through advocacy at all levels. On hearing the news, ICMC Europe Director Petra Hueck congratulated the Italian partners of the SHARE Integration network.

“We are very excited to see this well-deserved recognition of the humanitarian corridors – an excellent example of a public-private partnership to welcome refugees to local communities and offer safe and legal pathways for refugees in need of protection.”

“We have advocated for the program and supported its development through research and the engagement of a variety of stakeholders at all levels,” she added.

ICMC's connection with the Nansen Prize goes well back in time: Mr. James Norris, ICMC’s founding president, was honored with the award in 1975 for promoting aid programs for hundreds of thousands of uprooted people around the world.

The Nansen Award celebrates the legacy of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian scientist, polar explorer, diplomat, Nobel Peace Prize winner and the first High Commissioner for Refugees for the League of Nations from 1920 to 1930. Every year, the UNHCR grants this award to individuals, groups or organizations for their extraordinary service to refugees and outstanding work on behalf of displaced people.