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Greek PM intervenes to help 52 asylum seekers reach UK despite ban on direct flights

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An unprecedented family reunification rescue flight left Athens today, taking 52 vulnerable asylum seekers, including several minors, to join family in the UK.

The flight was organised with collaboration from the governments of Greece and the UK after direct flights between both countries were suspended in March.

“It is with great pleasure that we announce the reunification of families to the UK during this pandemic. Among these people are children that will finally be with their siblings, men and women to finally be reunited with their spouses,” Eirini Agapidaki, Greek Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors, told The Guardian.

A special family reunification flight left Athens on Monday. Source: Anadolu Agency.

“It’s the collaborative teamwork that allows us to be effective in times of corona restrictions. It’s a legacy that we need to sustain not just at national but also at the EU level.”

Those on the flight include people from Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan, many of whom have been living for months in overcrowded and unsanitary refugee camps on the Greek islands.

Beth Gardiner-Smith, CEO of Safe Passage (a charity which also advocated for the flight), said the asylum seekers welcomed the news they would be returning home to the UK.

“The UK and Greek governments have shown real leadership in reuniting these families despite the travel difficulties and we now urge the UK and other countries across Europe to continue these efforts to ensure no one is left behind,” she said.

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