Hanover: The first Syrians arrived in Germany from Istanbul Monday under a controversial EU-Turkey migrants pact, an official from the German federal refugee office told AFP.
The 16 asylum seekers flew into the northern city of Hanover and were to be taken to a refugee shelter about 140 kilometres (90 miles) away. A second group of Syrians was to arrive in Hanover around midday, the official added.
The representative from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, who did not give her name, asked reporters to respect the privacy of the asylum seekers, who were members of three families. An AFP reporter saw five children among them.
“This is all very new, very difficult,” she said. “They have been travelling for a very long time.”
One protester also arrived to meet the group, holding a banner reading: “Please keep fleeing, refugees not welcome.”
Under the scheme agreed with the EU last month, one Syrian refugee will be settled in Europe legally in return for every migrant taken back by Turkey from EU member Greece, which has faced the biggest influx in recent months.
All irregular migrants who have landed on the Greek islands since March 20 face being sent back to Turkey — although the deal calls for each case to be examined individually.
Early Monday, Greece sent back a first wave of migrants to Turkey under the deal that has run into strong criticism from rights groups.
Refugee advocates question whether the agreement is legal and ethical, fearing individuals will be denied the right to claim asylum.
Germany last year let in a record 1.1 migrants and refugees but Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under intense pressure to stem the flow.
German officials have said they expect other EU member states to begin taking in refugees under the pact with Turkey from Monday.