A total of 134 Iraqi migrants have returned to their home country this week, with some accepting €2,000 (£1,800/$2,400) as part of a Greek government programme.
Forty of the Iraqi migrants aboard the flight were the first to take advantage of the Voluntary Return & Reintegration Programme (AVRR). The programme was initially rolled out in March, but was delayed due to the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.
The migrants, 38 of them children, boarded the chartered flight from Athens on Thursday, according to a report from Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Those who took part in the new voluntary return programme are among the 5,000 or so who are eligible for the extra funding, with the qualifications being those who arrived on various Greek islands by the end of last year.
Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, spoke about the programme last month, saying: “Following the resumption of forced deportations, we aim in the coming weeks to make the first flights of voluntary returns. We are implementing a strict but fair immigration policy, and we aim to decongest both the islands and the whole country from the surge in migration flows in previous years.”
Voluntary Repatriation: 10,000 Migrants Joined German Subsidised Deportation Scheme in 2017 https://t.co/qwJYxPsoHz
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 1, 2018
Greece is not the first country to offer cash bonuses for migrants to go back to their home countries voluntarily. Germany has implemented a similar scheme for several years since the height of the migrant crisis in 2015.
According to a 2018 report, around 10,000 failed asylum seekers had taken up the German offer of €800 (£720/$940) per adult in two separate payments or €1,200 (£1,100/$1,400) for those who wish to return before their asylum application was fully processed. In 2017, the German government put aside €90 million (£81m/$106m) to fund voluntary repatriations.
While illegal migration into Greece has slowed by up to 90 per cent in the last quarter due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Turkish officials have promised that after the pandemic ends, migrants will be returning to the border region.