Italy sends 19 Eritreans to Sweden

2015-10-09 21:40
Eritrean migrants arrive in Sweden. (Robert Nyholm, AP)

Eritrean migrants arrive in Sweden. (Robert Nyholm, AP)

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Rome - Italy bid farewell Friday to 19 Eritreans - the first of an estimated 160 000 refugees to be resettled throughout Europe as part of a new EU redistribution program to move asylum-seekers out of hard-hit front-line countries.

Bundled up in flannel shirts and jackets to prepare for their new lives in Sweden, the Eritreans smiled and waved as they climbed up the stairs to the Italian police plane that took off from Rome and landed in Lulea, just south of the Arctic Circle, seven hours later.

Swedish officials will now register the refugees and begin processing their asylum requests.

Sweden's immigration agency said the 14 men and five women, who ranged in age from 25 to 40, were selected because they have a chance of being granted asylum and have family or other connections to Sweden.

A significant number of the people making dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea are from Eritrea, an authoritarian country in northeast Africa.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said over 100 more refugees from Italian centres would be resettled in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere in the coming weeks and that 40 000 asylum-seekers would be moved from Italy over the next two years.

Italy for years has demanded that other European nations shoulder more of the burden of the refugee crisis. Though most migrants prefer to pass through Italy en route to destinations further north, Alfano was keen to show off the first flight to quiet anti-immigrant critics at home.
Read more on:    migrants

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