Thursday 19 April 2018

Greeks send second wave of refugees to Turkey in EU deal

Migrants are escorted by police officers as they disembark from a ferry at a port in the Turkish coastal town of Dikili. Photo: Reuters
Migrants are escorted by police officers as they disembark from a ferry at a port in the Turkish coastal town of Dikili. Photo: Reuters

Zia Weise in Athens

The return of migrants from Greece to Turkey resumed yesterday after a three-day delay, with 124 deportees expected to reach the Turkish port of Dikili.

The readmissions, part of a controversial EU deal with Ankara to reduce the influx of refugees and migrants to the continent, were briefly halted during the week due to staff shortages and a surge in asylum applications. 

A ferry carrying 45 Pakistani men docked in Dikili yesterday morning. The returnees appeared calm as they disembarked, each accompanied by a Turkish police officer.

After undergoing health checks and fingerprinting, they were taken by bus to a “reception and removal centre” in Kirklareli, northeastern Turkey.

Activists jumped into the sea at the port of Lesbos as the ferry prepared to leave the island, but were pulled from the water by the Greek coastguard. A second boat carrying migrants from the islands of Lesbos, Samos and Kos left later yesterday.

On Monday, 202 migrants, mainly from Pakistan, were returned to Turkey. Greek officials said yesterday’s returnees, like those on Monday, were migrants who did not apply for asylum in Greece.

Under the deal agreed with Turkey, migrants and refugees who arrived in Greece after March 20 will be deported if they choose not to apply for asylum or if their application is rejected. Upon their return to Turkey, non-Syrians will be driven to deportation centres.

Overnight, the Turkish parliament approved a readmission agreement with Pakistan, allowing Ankara to repatriate Pakistani migrants. Turkey is negotiating similar agreements with other countries, including Afghanistan and Eritrea.

Syrians returned to Turkey will be sent to refugee camps along the Syrian border. For each deported Syrian, the EU has pledged to take in another Syrian from Turkey’s camps.

The first 43 Syrians resettled to EU countries under the deal arrived in Germany and Finland on Monday.

But a surge in asylum applications is expected to slow down the readmission process.

The majority of migrants and refugees detained on Greece’s islands have applied for asylum, creating a growing backlog. On Chios, where more than 1,500 refugees have arrived since March 20, the process has stalled. “There is no one left on the island who will leave voluntarily and hardly any asylum claims have been processed yet,” a Frontex official said last night.

In a report released yesterday, Amnesty International noted that on Chios, a lone official was tasked with processing 800 applications. So far, he had worked through 10 asylum claims. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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