18:22 GMT25 May 2020
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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

    Belgium on Monday became the first EU country to repatriate Iraqi refugees by charter plane, Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken said.

    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) — A plane with 111 Iraqi refugees, who voluntary decided to give up waiting for asylum in Belgium, departed on Monday morning from Brussels to Baghdad, the official said, according to the RTBF broadcaster.

    "It is a voluntary return. It is not an expulsion. People want to leave, so we make it easier for them," Francken said, as quoted by the broadcaster.

    According to the official, Belgian immigration authorities were the first in the European Union to charter a plane to repatriate Iraqi nationals.

    The Belgian immigration authorities regard Iraqis not as refugees, but as economic migrants. Most migrants arriving in Belgium are from Iraq, mostly from Baghdad. They are mainly men aged 25-45.

    Europe is currently struggling to cope with a massive migrant crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety and refuge in stable and wealthy EU states.

    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)


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