First 16 Eritreans refugees are being flown from Italy to Sweden

Some 16 Eritreans are being flown from Italy to a new home in Sweden – the first refugees to be resettled under a new EU relocation plan.

Under the EU’s plan, 120,000 refugees will be redistributed from Italy and Greece to other European countries.

The Eritreans will be waved off by Italy’s interior minister. Italy has long asked for help from EU partners in coping with the migrant influx.

The EU on Thursday approved a range of measures to tackle the issue.

Interior ministers agreed to beef up its border force Frontex in order to speed up deportations of failed asylum seekers.

They also called for more effective re-admission deals with countries of origin outside the EU.

The conclusions from their talks said EU states should detain migrants who may abscond before they are deported.

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The plan to resettle 120,000 refugees from Italy and Greece – two countries which have borne the brunt of the influx – was agreed by the EU in September.

The plan is now being put into action with what – at this stage – must count as extreme modesty, the BBC’s James Reynolds reports from Rome.

The EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said on Thursday: “The first relocation plane of Eritreans is taking off tomorrow from Italy to Sweden – this means that they have been registered, fingerprinted, identified and screened for relocation”.

He will accompany the group to the airport in Rome, along with Italy’s interior minister Angelino Alfano.

The EU has agreed to set up so-called “hotspots” in Italy and Greece – new migrant registration centres for new arrivals to be filtered and priority given to refugees in need of international protection.

Mr Avramopoulos said the first EU hotspot in Italy was already operational in Lampedusa. Hundreds of migrants have drowned off the tiny island near North Africa, after crowding on to rickety boats that set sail from Libya.

Germany and Austria have also agreed to send asylum specialists to help Italy and Greece.

The commissioner said about 10 flights would take failed asylum seekers home this month from across Europe, and he called it “good, but not enough”.

The eastern Mediterranean route has overtaken the central route as the most commonly used this year – with Syrians forming by far the largest migrant group

More than 550,000 migrants have reached the EU this year, many fleeing conflict. Germany is hosting the most.

EU countries generally grant asylum to Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans, but not to the many economic migrants from Africa and Asia.

Last year more than half a million non-EU migrants were found to be “illegally present” in the 28-nation bloc. Most were ordered to leave, but EU countries deported only about 40% of those listed for removal.

Frontex is to be given a more direct role in screening migrants and helping member states to deport failed asylum seekers.

The European Commission has also put forward an “action plan” on migrant returns, which calls on member states to “use detention, as a legitimate measure of last resort”, to help prevent irregular migrants moving elsewhere in the EU.

Many EU politicians are under domestic pressure to expel more migrants, amid a nationalist backlash across Europe.

The EU is however bound by the “non-refoulement” rule, meaning that under international law it cannot send migrants back to life-threatening situations.

A map showing movements of migrants in Europe: The eastern Mediterranean route has overtaken the central route as the most commonly used this year - with Syrians forming by far the largest migrant group©

BBC The eastern Mediterranean route has overtaken the central route as the most commonly used this year – with Syrians forming by far the largest migrant group

BBC

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