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Refugees off to Luxembourg under EU relocation scheme

A group of Syrian and Iraqi refugees have left Greece under an EU relocation program aimed at easing frontline countries hit by the migrant influx. The six families will be resettled in the wealthy country of Luxembourg.

Athens Wednesday implemented the first round of an EU-wide refugee relocation program aimed at easing capacity in frontline countries such as Greece and Italy, which have witnessed more than half a million migrants cross its borders in 2015.

Around 30 Syrians and Iraqis comprising six families boarded an aircraft bound for Luxembourg, marking the first phase for refugees residing in Greece to be relocated under the program.

The relocation program aims to transfer around 160,000 asylum seekers from countries that have taken the brunt of the migrant influx.

The first batch of asylum seekers residing in Greece to be relocated under the program posed with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn before boarding a plane at Athens international airport.

The EU has struggled to form a cohesive action plan in response to the largest migrant influx since World War II.

The relocation plan - a 780-million-euro ($854 million), two-year scheme - was passed in September, although it was opposed by former Soviet countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, which have reintroduced border controls in a bid to stop migrants from entering the country.

In October, Sweden became the first country to resettle refugees under the program, welcoming 19 Eritreans who arrived in Italy via the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the IOM, more than half a million people fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have crossed the Mediterranean in 2015.

ls/kms (AP, Reuters)

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