Sweden receives first refugees under EU relocation plan

Sweden receives first group of 19 Eritrean refugees under EU relocation plan

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Eritrean migrants arrive at Lulea airport, Kallax in northern Sweden, with an Italian police aircraft that took off from Rome's Ciampino airport earlier on Friday, October 9, 2015.

Under the European Union refugee relocation plan a first group of Eritreans arrived at Lulea airport, Kallax, in northern Sweden on Friday.

Nineteen asylum seekers, men and women, were escorted by European migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano to a state plane from Ciampino airport in Rome, Italy.

A total of 580,238 refugees have entered Europe, crossing the Mediterranean Sea this year, while 2,989 others died in the attempt, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Italy alone has registered at least 120,000 refugees on its shores since the start of this year as the destination for Europe-bound refugee boats.

The EU refugee plan aims to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to ease the burden on the the countries which are focal points of the refugee crisis due to their central location in the migration route.

Until recently EU ministers failed to reach a common agreement on the redistribution of refugees throughout the bloc.

However, in late September European Union leaders agreed to share 160,000 refugees across the bloc, outvoting four eastern European countries - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - which strongly opposed the arrangement.

"Today is a day of victory for Europe," Alfano told reporters, adding that 100 more refugees will also be relocated in the upcoming weeks.

"This first relocation exercise is a small step but a significant one - it is symbolic of a Europe that takes responsibility, that shows solidarity and is capable of meeting the challenges before it," Avramopoulos said.

TRTWorld and agencies