MILAN (AP) — The first of some 300 Afghan refugees arrived in Rome on Monday along a new humanitarian corridor organized by the Italian government and civil society, charities and international organizations, Italy’s Foreign Ministry announced.
The humanitarian corridor aims to give “additional refugees and persecuted Afghans the possibility of a future in dignity and security” following the U.S. withdrawal last August and the Taliban’s reassertion of control, the ministry said.
Thousands of Afghan citizens were evacuated after the fall of Kabul, but many who risked Taliban retribution were left behind. The Foreign Ministry said the corridor, which envisions the transfer of 1,200 refugees from Iran and Pakistan and other neighboring countries, would give priority to women and children.
The first nine Afghan refugees arrived on a flight from Tehran. Another 200 are scheduled to be flown from Islamabad on Wednesday with a third group arriving from Tehran on Thursday.
At the same time, the number of Afghan refugees taking smuggling routes is growing, with some 3,280 arriving in Italy by sea so far this year, according to the U.N. Refugee agency. The International Organization for Migration, meanwhile, said Afghans are the top nationality daring the perilous central Mediterranean Sea route to European shores, with 8,121 arrivals through last Friday.
Both organizations were involved in organizing the corridor transfers, along with Italy’s foreign and interior ministries and charities including the Community of Sant’Egidio and Caritas.