Italy's rightist govt welcomes migrants airlifted from Libya

ROME (Reuters) - Italy welcomed on Wednesday 114 migrants from Libya as part of a 'humanitarian corridor' organised by Christian charities, with members of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's rightist administration saying they supported legal migration channels.

The migrants landed at Rome's Fiumicino airport weeks after a furious spat between Italy and France, triggered by Rome's refusal to take in a charity-run migrant rescue boat with more than 200 people onboard.

"We say no to human smugglers and yes to a path that leads to integration. This is the action we want to take on the African continent and in the Middle East to beat wars, famine and terrorism," Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani was quoted as saying.

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi was also present.

The 'humanitarian corridor' is a project run by Protestant and Catholic organisations, funded by the associations themselves, which helps people fleeing conflicts and offers them a chance to rebuild their lives in Italy.

According to the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic group involved in the project, more than 5,000 asylum seekers from Libya, Lebanon and Pakistan have arrived in Italy since the corridors were launched in 2016.

This compares with almost 95,000 boat migrants who have arrived in Italy from north Africa in the year to date, up from around 63,000 in the same period of 2021, interior ministry data shows.

According to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 2 million people are seeking asylum in safe countries.

(Reporting by Francesca Piscioneri, editing by Alvise Armellini and Bernadette Baum)

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