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EU Begins Relocation Of Refugees Amid East Europe Opposition

  • Henry Ridgwell

Europe has begun relocating the first refugees from Greece to other European Union states under its plan to tackle the migrant crisis. Brussels wants hundreds of thousands of refugees to be resettled – but there is strong opposition from some members.

After their flight from war – a ticket to a new life in Europe began for 30 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, flown Wednesday from Athens to Luxembourg.

Among those bidding them farewell was EU Parliament President Martin Schulz.

“When I saw the happiness and the lucky faces of the children, I thought this is exactly what we have to do," Schulz said.

He called on all EU states to take part in the relocation plan, which envisages 160,000 refugees being shared across the EU. But there has been opposition from several eastern member states.

“It’s not really for Martin Schulz to say what is fine and what is not fine, because it’s really for national governments. And although there was a majority to agree to the relocation scheme, a number of governments protested and a number of governments voted very unwillingly," said Pawel Swidlikci, a policy analyst with Open Europe.

The final leg of the journey to Luxembourg was made by bus. Many refugees said they knew little about their future home.

On the Greek islands, thousands more migrants continue to arrive every day.

Refugees board an aircraft at Athens International airport, leaving Greece for Luxembourg, Nov. 4, 2015. It is the first such relocation from Greece under a new EU relocation plan but only a minuscule fraction of the hundreds of thousands who have entered

Refugees board an aircraft at Athens International airport, leaving Greece for Luxembourg, Nov. 4, 2015. It is the first such relocation from Greece under a new EU relocation plan but only a minuscule fraction of the hundreds of thousands who have entered

Still off target

A strike by ferry workers left many stranded at the dockside in Lesbos Wednesday.

“With the 30 refugees taken from Greece to Luxembourg, this now takes us to a total of 116. So still many, many thousands off the target (of 160,000)). And that‘s not even to mention addressing the broader crisis," Swidlicki said.

Greece is at the front line of the crisis.

“We should not encourage the out-of-control land or sea travel from Turkey to the rest of Europe that puts human lives at rise," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned Wednesday.

FILE - Investigators stand near a truck that stands on the shoulder of the highway A4 near Parndorf south of Vienna, Austria, Aug 27, 2015.

FILE - Investigators stand near a truck that stands on the shoulder of the highway A4 near Parndorf south of Vienna, Austria, Aug 27, 2015.

For the vast majority of migrants, the journey to a new life in Europe is increasingly dangerous.

Temperatures in the transit Balkan countries are falling fast, and aid agencies warn that thousands of lives will soon be at risk.

G20 request

Meanwhile, the European Union wants leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies to also help tackle a growing migration crisis when they meet in Turkey this month to discuss tax cooperation, trade and climate change.

EU Chairman Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker will push at the November 15-16 meeting for a global response to the challenge faced by Europe from the influx, Reuters reported.

In a letter by the two men to other EU leaders, they wrote: "Meeting in Turkey in the midst of a refugee crisis due to conflicts in Syria and elsewhere, the G20 must rise to the challenge and lead a coordinated and innovative response to the crisis that recognises its global nature and economic consequences and promotes greater international solidarity in protecting refugees."

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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