First Greeks arrive home from Egypt

A total of 182 members of the Greek community in Egypt have been flown back to Greece from Alexandria as protests against President Hosni Mubarak and his government intensify.

The evacuated Greeks, including elderly people and children, arrived at Athens International Airport on Tuesday afternoon. They were escorted onto the Greek air force airplanes by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis.

«Our country, can find a way to stand next to its citizens when it has to,» he said after the aircraft landed.

The planes had left Greece at 9.30 a.m. after requests from some of the members of the 4,000-strong Greek community in Egypt to be repatriated.

«We felt we were in danger, we could hear gunshots near our house,» Alexandria resident Ioanna Tzanakou told Athens News Agency. «Our husbands stood outside our houses with knives and clubs at night to protect our property.»

Tzanakou was on one of the three airplanes with her husband and their two children.

«If you have children, you cannot take the risk of staying,» said Markela Maliara, who left her husband behind but returned to Greece with the couple’s three children.

The head of the Greek community in Cairo, Christos Kavalis, told Skai Radio on Monday that only a handful of people had expressed an interest in being airlifted back to Greece.

However, the head of the Greek community in Alexandria, Yiannis Tsiokas, said on Monday that there was a growing need for people to be evacuated. He said that members of the Greek community guaranteed to get people to Alexandria airport and called on the government to make available as many airplanes as possible.

«We have organized things in the best way possible but with a fluid situation you cannot expect everything to be perfect,» said Dollis. «For us, it is relatively easy to go and pick them up but we are trying to do is to deal with their fear.»

The government has not made it clear if there are any immediate plans to fly more Greeks out of Egypt.

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