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Europe

First group of Iraqi refugees land in Hanover

Latest update : 2009-03-19

A first group of 122 Iraqi refugees coming from Syrian camps landed in Hanover, Germany on Thursday. The European Union decided back in November to take in 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from war-torn Iraq.

AFP - The first group of Iraqi refugees to be taken in by Germany as part of a European resettlement programme landed at Hanover airport on Thursday, the government said.

The 122 Iraqis -- many of whom are Christians -- will spend two weeks in northern Germany, where they will be issued a three-year, extendable residency permit before being relocated to other parts of the country, the government said.

Maria Boehmer, Germany's commissioner for migration, refugees and integration told journalists on Thursday the country would welcome the immigrants "with open arms" and that accepting them was a "bid for humanity."

The European Union decided in November to take in 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from war-torn Iraq.

Britain, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are also involved in the plan, which will see Germany receive 2,500 refugees.

Those seeking asylum were subjected to a complex application process. Single mothers, post-traumatic stress sufferers and those with family ties to Germany had a greater chance of a successful application, according to the EU criteria.

Iraq was torn by insurgency and sectarian strife after US-led forces invaded in March 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein. About two million Iraqi refugees currently live in Jordan and Syria.

"The arrival of the first people represents a success on our behalf, but we need to bear in mind that this is only the first phase of a long process," Julia Duchrow, from Amnesty International, told reporters at a news conference in early March.

Guenter Burkhardt from the organisation Pro Asylum said the priority was to enable a "successful integration" of the group, adding that refugees are often forced to live on the periphery of society.

The Federal Office for Refugees and Migrants said Iraqis accounted for around one third of asylum applications received since the start of 2009 in Germany.

Date created : 2009-03-19

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