A total of 116 refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, including 30 families with children, departed from the island of Lesvos on a charter flight to Hannover in Germany on Wednesday morning.
It was the first direct flight from an Aegean island to a European Union country under the relocation program, which is being implemented by the Migration Ministry in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, with funding from the European Commission.
Wednesday’s direct flight took place following the agreement between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the aftermath of the catastrophic fire at the Moria camp last September.
The agreement provides for the relocation of a total of 1,553 refugees from Greece to Germany.
So far, only 449 recognized refugees have left for Germany due to travel restrictions introduced due to the pandemic.
“Our country alone, and especially the five islands of the Aegean, cannot shoulder a disproportionate burden,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis.
“Our country will continue to implement a strict but fair migration policy, giving asylum to those who really deserve it, but it will not be the gateway to the European Union for traffickers,” he said, noting that the relocation of the 1,553 refugees “is a great success, showing that European solidarity can be and is practical.”