Over 130 Iraqi Migrants Return Home on Voluntary Greek Flight

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Forty of the Iraqi migrants aboard the flight were the first to take advantage of the Voluntary Return & Reintegration Programme (AVRR). The programme was initially rolled out in March, but was delayed due to the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The migrants, 38 of them children, boarded the chartered flight from Athens on Thursday, according to a report from Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

Those who took part in the new voluntary return programme are among the 5,000 or so who are eligible for the extra funding, with the qualifications being those who arrived on various Greek islands by the end of last year.

Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, spoke about the programme last month, saying: “Following the resumption of forced deportations, we aim in the coming weeks to make the first flights of voluntary returns. We are implementing a strict but fair immigration policy, and we aim to decongest both the islands and the whole country from the surge in migration flows in previous years.”

Greece is not the first country to offer cash bonuses for migrants to go back to their home countries voluntarily. Germany has implemented a similar scheme for several years since the height of the migrant crisis in 2015.

According to a 2018 report, around 10,000 failed asylum seekers had taken up the German offer of EUR800 (GBP720/$940) per adult in two separate payments or EUR1,200 (GBP1,100/$1,400) for those who wish to return before their asylum application was fully processed. In 2017, the German government put aside EUR90 million (GBP81m/$106m) to fund voluntary repatriations.

While illegal migration into Greece has slowed by up to 90 per cent in the last quarter due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Turkish officials have promised that after the pandemic ends, migrants will be returning to the border region.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)breitbart.com