A small group of Eritreans left Italy for Sweden on Friday, the first contingent of asylum-seekers to be relocated under a European Union scheme to ease the burden of the migration crisis on frontline countries.
Grinning shyly before the media, 19 young Eritreans shook hands with EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and waved as they boarded a financial police plane at Rome\’s Ciampino airport.
The aircraft carrying the refugees was bound for Kallax Airport in Lulea, in the far north of Sweden.
Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who was on hand to bid the Eritreans farewell, has said the transfer is proof that Europe has finally changed its migration policy.
Italy for years has demanded Europe shoulder more of the burden of the continent\’s refugee crisis. Even though most migrants prefer to pass through Italy en route to destinations further north, Alfano has been keen to show off the first flight to try to quiet anti-immigrant critics at home.