First Syrian asylum seekers land in Germany after EU-Turkey deal

The first Syrian asylum seekers to enter the European Union legally directly from Turkey following the bloc's deal with Ankara landed in Hanover, Germany, on Monday.

The six families - 32 men, women and children - arrived on two planes from Istanbul. They had been selected by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, as particularly vulnerable.

The first group of 16 refugees was taken by bus to a reception centre in Friedland, near Goettingen in northern Germany, before midday. From there they will be distributed later to several towns and communities in the state of Lower Saxony.

Another 16 people were to follow.

The asylum seekers were welcomed by staff of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, THW, and immigration authority BAMF.

The Syrians had been quite excited and a little timid, BAMF's Corinna Wicher said after the arrival of the first 16 refugees, adding the families only found out a week ago they would be able to travel from Turkey to Germany.

According to a deal between the EU and Turkey, migrants who arrived in Greece after March 20 who do not apply for asylum or fail to qualify will be returned to Turkey. This only excludes people who can prove that they face persecution in Turkey.

For every migrant sent back to Turkey, one Syrian refugee will be directly taken from Turkey and resettled in Europe.

The exchange of migrants is meant to apply to a maximum of 72,000 people. Some 15,000 Syrians are to be taken in by Germany.

However, not everyone was happy with the Syrians' arrival on Monday, with one protester at Hanover Airport displaying a placard saying "Refugees not welcome."

The asylum seekers themselves declined to talk to the many international journalists waiting at the airport.

"They will have time to get some peace and quiet in Friedland," Wicher said.

Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 12:53

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