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Greece: Country Begins Sending Migrants Back To Turkey

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Migrants are deported to Turkey from the port of Mytilene on April 4, 2016

The first boats carrying migrants from Greece have arrived in Turkey as part of an EU deal to deport those who have failed to gain asylum.

Ships carrying around 200 migrants and refugees – more than 130 from Lesbos and over 60 from Chios – set off across the Aegean Sea from the islands on Monday.

The first boat with several dozen passengers on board arrived at Dikili on the Turkish coast at around 9.20am (local time), accompanied by two Turkish coastguard vessels and a police helicopter.

They were taken to a small white tent on the quayside, behind security fencing, where they were met by immigration officials.

“All of the migrants returned are from Pakistan except for two migrants from Syria who returned voluntarily,” Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for a government refugee crisis committee, told state television.

He said there was “no timetable” for further deportations, adding the examination of asylum applications “will take some time”.

Sky’s Michelle Clifford in Lesbos said: “The whole idea about this scheme is to deter people from making that dangerous sea crossing from Turkey here to Greece.

“But as those ferries left here we filmed 58 migrants being brought to shore by the coastguard – so half as many almost as were taken away to Turkey – arrived from Turkey. Clearly the message they will be sent back is not deterring people at the moment.”

Clifford earlier spoke to charity workers from Save The Children who have been talking to migrants, mainly Syrians, at a detention centre on the Greek island. Some were said to have threatened to jump overboard if they were sent back to Turkey.

Human rights groups argue the deportations break international law and mark a dark time in Europe’s history.

Lucy Carrigan, from the International Rescue Committee, said: “What is missing is the focus on what the legal alternatives are – how can desperate people seeking sanctuary, who are fleeing war, find a way to Europe safely.”

As each migrant was led aboard a ship, a small group of protesters outside the port in Lesbos shouted “shame on you!”

Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala said 500 people were expected to arrive on the first day, but Greece had only provided the names of 400.

For each migrant sent back to Turkey, officials have said a legitimate refugee will be resettled in Europe.

As the deportation process started, the first group of 16 Syrian asylum seekers arrived in Hanover, Germany, on a flight from Istanbul.

Although the first migrants to be sent back are expected to be from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, Syrians who have illegally crossed will also be expelled if they have arrived since 20 March.

Europe’s politicians want expulsions to act as a deterrent from boarding the smugglers boats, but already there are signs it is not working.

In Dikili, migrants are still arriving hoping to connect with the smugglers and get to Europe.


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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field