The first group of Syrian refugees to be sent to Europe in exchange for those returned to Turkey arrived in northern Germany on Monday.
The first planeload carrying sixteen Syrians landed in Hanover on a morning flight from Istanbul. A similar number arrived slightly later, around midday.
The new arrivals were taken to a reception centre at Friedland in the surrounding Lower Saxony region.
“They are of course very excited because they had to pack up everything in Turkey in a relatively short period of time. They had one week to do this. And they had to get up very, very early in the morning today. There is a very long journey behind them and now they are of course excited about what to expect here in Germany,” said Corinna Wicher of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel largely helped orchestrate the European Union’s exchange deal with Turkey, under which the number of resettlements in Europe is to be capped at 72,000.
Last year more than a million migrants entered Germany. Although many people in the country welcomed the refugees, others have voiced fears about integration, security and costs.
Despite the massive influx of refugees, more than half the places in reception centres are now said to be vacant.
The move by several countries to close the Balkan route has drastically reduced numbers.