A total of 116 refugees, among them 30 families with children, departed on Wednesday on a charter flight from Greece’s Lesvos Island to Hannover, Germany, the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry announced.
It was the first such direct flight from an Aegean Sea island to an EU member state in the context of the relocation program carried out in collaboration with the International Migration Organization with EU funds, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.
Since April 2020, Germany has taken from Greece 1,677 persons, according to the German Embassy in Athens.
Another 10 similar flights have been scheduled for the next two months to relocate about 1,000 refugees, Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi said.
“Our country will continue to implement a strict, but fair migration policy, granting asylum to those that deserve it, but Greece will not become a gateway to the European Union for human traffickers,” the minister said at Lesvos’ airport.
Currently 64,259 people are hosted in facilities across Greece, with 13,553 persons living in camps on five islands, including Lesvos, according to the latest data released by the ministry a few days ago.
A total of 11,304 individuals were relocated or deported in 2020, while 78,229 asylum bids are currently pending.
More than one million people reached Greece since 2015 fleeing wars and extreme poverty. Most continued their journey to other European countries until the closure of the borders along the Balkan route in 2016.