An Italian police aircraft carrying 19 Eritreans has taken off from Rome's Ciampino airport bringing the first refugees to Sweden under the European Union's new resettlement program aimed at redistributing asylum-seekers from hard-hit receiving countries.

The aircraft carrying the refugees was bound for Kallax Airport in Lulea, in the far north of Sweden.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who was on hand to bid the Eritreans farewell, has said the transfer is proof that Europe has finally changed its migration policy.

Italy for years has demanded Europe shoulder more of the burden of the continent's refugee crisis. Even though most migrants prefer to pass through Italy en route to destinations further north, Alfano has been keen to show off the first flight to try to quiet anti-immigrant critics at home.