A screenshot from a video provided by the NGO Sea-Watch shows rescued migrants heading to Palermo, Italy, on September 1, 2020 | Photo: EPA / Sea Watch Press Office
A screenshot from a video provided by the NGO Sea-Watch shows rescued migrants heading to Palermo, Italy, on September 1, 2020 | Photo: EPA / Sea Watch Press Office

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on November 12 assisted the first group of asylum seekers to relocate from Italy to Spain since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The UN agency said 15 asylum seekers were transferred from Rome to Madrid.

ROME - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on November 12 assisted 15 asylum seekers to relocate safely from Italy to Spain, the organization said in a statement.

The procedure was carried out in cooperation and with the support of the Italian interior ministry, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the Spanish government and with coordination from the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission.

In a statement, the UN agency stressed that it was the first relocation since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

'Relocation highlights EU solidarity'

"We are happy to continue to support voluntary relocation," said Laurence Hart, director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean.

"This departure -- which was carried out in such a difficult context -- was another important and concrete demonstration of European Union (EU) solidarity."

Since September this year, 184 asylum seekers have been relocated from Italy to other EU member States, including to France (59), Germany (109), Portugal (12) and Finland (4).

The asylum seekers had been hosted in a reception center in the central Italian Lazio region, close to Rome. They departed from Rome's Fiumicino airport on Thursday morning and landed in Madrid.

The group was transferred to new accommodation in Madrid.

Geraddine: 'I hope I can learn Spanish quickly'

IOM is responsible for ensuring that relocation beneficiaries travel safely and in an orderly manner. Before their departure, the UN agency provides those being relocated with information about what awaits them in the country of relocation.

Special attention is devoted to asylum seekers' health needs and conditions, as well as necessary precautions regarding COVID-19.

Before departing, Geraddine, an asylum seeker from Cameroon, told IOM Rome that he was looking forward to starting a new life in Spain.

"I am grateful for the support I have received while in Italy, and I hope I will be able to quickly learn Spanish so that I can support migrants who are going through the same path there," he said before boarding the flight to Spain.

 

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