Greece conducted its first relocation attempt as the first 30 refugees in the country left on a flight from Athens to Luxembourg on Wednesday. Fabrice Leggeri, the head of the European Union's border agency, said later in the day that over 800,000 people have entered the EU illegally this year, as the region faces its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
The refugees relocated Wednesday were from six Syrian families and were the first to be relocated by Greece under the EU's two-year program of about 780 million euros ($852 million), Reuters reported. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn saw the families off from Athens.
In September, the EU had approved a plan to relocate 160,000 refugees across the region. About 86 refugees have so far been relocated from Italy to Sweden and Finland under the program, Reuters reported. Last month, Italy sent its first group of 19 Eritrean refugees to Sweden.
"Thirty in the face of thousands who have fled their homes in Syria and Iraq is a drop in the ocean," Tsipras said, according to Reuters, adding: "But we hope that this becomes a stream, and then a river of humanity and shared responsibility, because these are the principles upon which the European Union was built."
Asselborn said, according to the Associated Press (AP) that the latest relocation attempt by Greece is "only a start, but a very, very important start." He also condemned the efforts of creating fences at their borders and said that they did not uphold European values.
"Walls, fences and barbed wires cannot be part of the European Union,” Asselborn said, according to AP, adding that if the region cannot change the perception and the prejudice against refugees "then the values of the European Union are destroyed in some way."
Meanwhile, Leggeri told German tabloid Bild that those who do not have the right to asylum should be jailed, the Local, a French news network reported. "Anyone who has entered illegally and has no right to asylum must quickly be sent back to his homeland," Leggeri said, adding that the number of 800,000 was just provisional as many were still on their way to EU.
The weekend which went by saw 39 separate accidents in the Aegean Sea and rescue officials saved 1,400 migrants from the water. A report by the United Nations on Monday estimated that in October alone, over 218,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe. Last week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that at least 3,440 people have died or have gone missing this year so far while trying to reach Europe. The figures do not reflect the accidents over the weekend, during which 22 people died in the Aegean Sea in separate accidents.
Late on Tuesday, a boat carrying refugees from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos ran into trouble, killing at least five people, including three children, AP reported. Greece’s coast guards have so far rescued 65 people.
Meanwhile, German authorities reportedly began raids against "criminal, internationally operating trafficking groups," during which 500 officers raided 24 homes across the country.