France to resettle 500 refugees from Lebanon

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President Francois Hollande Tuesday inked an agreement to resettle 500 refugees, mostly Syrians, from Lebanon over the next 18 months. The signing ceremony took place at the Elysee Palace, where Interior Minister Bruno le Roux and Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault were also present. During a speech at the event, Hollande said that incoming refugees would be identified by partner organization on the ground in Lebanon and vetted by the authorities in Paris before traveling by Air France flights to France. Priority would be given to the most vulnerable, including families with young children, women, the elderly and the disabled. Lebanon hosts just over 1 million registered refugees, although the government places the figure at upward of 1.5 million. Increasingly, countries are looking to resettle refugees directly from host countries in the region to cut down on incentives to resort to traffickers and informal routes. Hollande discussed the extreme dangers refugees face when attempting to flee to Europe without assistance, advocating instead for creating a system to bring them safely to France. As part of this effort, welcoming centers will be set up by several Christian humanitarian organizations that collaborated on initiatives, including Caritas and the Catholic organization Community of Sant’Egidio in Italy. Italy has already implemented a similar humanitarian corridor system for resettlement in Europe through partner organization in Lebanon. Although prevalent before, throughout 2015 a huge increase in refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the region traveled informally on perilous routes to Europe, overwhelming government assistance programs and asylum system. In response, countries have sought a more regulated resettlement processes. “Europe and France are facing an unprecedented wave of refugees, because of its scale and because of its causes. Everything is adding up – there are wars, especially in Iraq and Syria; there are conflicts, that we must not forget, in Africa, Sudan, South-Sudan; there are acts of violence, committed in a certain number of countries that we recognize, such as Eritrea; and then, there is well terrorism or fanaticism, driving people to leave their homes to look for safety and tranquility in Europe,” President Francois Hollande said during his remarks.

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