Migrants disembarking from the Ocean Viking vessel in Pozzallo, Sicily, on January 21, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Francesco Ruta
Migrants disembarking from the Ocean Viking vessel in Pozzallo, Sicily, on January 21, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Francesco Ruta

68 asylum seekers have been sent from Rome to Paris as part of an EU-wide relocation program. Since September 2019, some 464 people have been redistributed from Italy to other EU countries.

"As planned, a direct flight has left Rome to Paris with 68 asylum seekers accepted by France as part of relocation procedures set in motion by the European Commission on Italy's request," the Italian interior ministry announced in a statement on Tuesday. "With this first flight of 2020, the number of migrant redistributed across Europe since September has risen to 464." 

The ministry said that ''this shows the renewed commitment to more concrete EU-wide solidarity, in part due to the Valletta pre-agreement signed in September by Germany, France, Italy and Malta." 

Migrants rescued in Mediterranean Sea 

The ministry noted that among the people on the flight to France were migrants that had disembarked from the following ships: Cigala Fulgosi (02/06/2019), Ocean Viking (16/10/2019), Alan Kurdi (03/11/2019), Ocean Viking (24/11/2019), and Aita Mari (26/11/2019). 

In order to speed up the relocation procedures, the Malta pre-agreement sets a four-week maximum time limit from the disembarking to the actual redistribution of asylum seekers to countries that are willing to take them in. 

France: More asylum seekers and deportations in 2019 

The French interior ministry meanwhile said that the number of asylum requests rose by 7.3% last year. A total of 132,614 requests were filed with the Office for Refugee Protection (OFPRA). The number of deportated migrants rose by 19% to a total of 23,746. The number of asylum requests accepted rose to 36,512 compared with the 33,330 in the previous year --that's a 9.5% increase. 

French authorities say that the increase in requests was mostly due to "secondary movements" of migrants that had already arrived in Europe, since undocumented arrivals in Europe dropped sharply last year compared with the previous years. 

The main countries of origin for those seeking asylum in France last year were: Afghanistan (9,163), Guinea (6,027), Georgia (5,780), and Albania (5,599). The last two are considered ''safe'' countries by France and thus, asylum seekers from these countries are unlikely to received protection. 
 

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