Catholic Group Flies Syrians to Italy, Marking Contrast to Trump Ban
Sima, a 7-year-old Syrian refugee from Homs, plays with a balloon as her mother M'aha Aleweir holds her 3-year old sister Sidra upon their arrival at Rome's Fiumicino International Airport on Monday. Alessandra Tarantino / AP
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ROME — More than 40 Syrians were flown to Italy Monday as part of an program run by a Roman Catholic group, an effort that stood in contrast to President Donald Trump's recent order restricting travel from some Muslim-majority nations.
The 41 mainly women and children had fled the cities of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo and were been living in refugee camps in Lebanon. After undergoing a lengthy vetting process, they were flown on a commercial airliner to Rome where they are being offered free housing and education by Comunita di Sant’Egidio, the lay order running the program.
“We welcome them, are moved to tears,” Marco Impagliazzo, the president of Sant’Egidio, told journalists after the Syrians landed in Rome. “We need to offer refuge and a safe passage to those who flee wars. We need to build bridges, not walls.”
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While not mentioning Trump by name, Impagliazzo's comments seemed clearly directed at the new U.S. president who has made building a wall on the United States' southern border with Mexico one of his signature policies.
The Italian rehousing plan — the first of its kind in Europe, according to Sant’Egidio — was introduced in 2015. It aims to offer refugees safe passage to Europe on commercial flights before they officially apply for asylum, and help them avoid the often deadly Mediterranean crossing.