Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Greece begins migrant deportations to Turkey

  • Greece has begun to return those who arrived on boats to Greece since 20 March (Photo: CAFOD Photo Library)

Greece has returned the first migrants to Turkey under an EU deal to ease the flow of people into Europe.

According to the vice-mayor of Lesbos, 136 people left the island on Monday (4 April). He said they were mostly from Pakistan, according to the BBC.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Another ferry from the island of Chios is also expected to leave later.

A total of roughly 750 people will returned from the Greek islands by Wednesday, according to Greece’s state news agency.

Turkey has made preparations to receive around 500 people in Dikili, western Turkey.

"We have been in touch with the Greek authorities and said we could take 500 people and they have given us 400 names. Tomorrow it's possible that this figure could change," Turkish interior minister Efkan Ala was quoted as saying by AFP on Sunday.

Ala suggested citizens of countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan would be returned to their home countries.

He said Syrians would be sent to refugee camps to replace those who will be directly resettled in Europe as part of the “one for one” plan.

Under the EU-Turkey deal, aimed at discouraging people from using irregular migration routes into Europe, Greece would send back everyone who fails to apply for asylum, or if their claim is rejected.

For each returned Syrian, the EU agreed to take in another Syrian directly from Turkey.

The deal has been heavily criticised by rights group who say mass return of refugees is contrary to international law and warn that Turkey is not a safe country for many of them.

“This is the first day of a very difficult time for refugee rights. Despite the serious legal gaps and lack of adequate protection in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead with a dangerous deal,” Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece, told the Associated Press.

Migrants in Chios have protested against their planned return to Turkey, saying they were unaware of that possibility, and complained about the lack of information on asylum procedure.

Around 4,000 migrants and refugees have been detained on Greek islands since the EU-Turkey agreement came into force on 20 March.

Daily arrivals have dropped to about 300-400 from the previous 2,000.

According to the UN’s refugee agency, 51,000 people have been stranded in Greece after northern countries closed their borders.

Germany: More deals needed

Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere suggested on Sunday that deals with northern African countries may be needed to prevent more migrant arrivals.

Germany, which took in more than one million refugees and migrants last year, has already seen arrivals drop sharply to 140 a day on its Austrian border, he told Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper.

“I can say with a great deal of caution that the peak of the refugee crisis is behind us,” he said.

Be he added that if people start coming through alternative routes, like Libya and Italy, similar deals might be necessary as with Turkey.

“If, once more, more people come via this route, we will need to search for similar solutions as we did with Turkey and also enter into negotiations with North African countries,” he said.

Austria has meanwhile seen around a 1,500 pro-migrant protesters clash with police at the Brenner border crossing with Italy.

It comes after Austrian defence minister Peter Doskozil said on Saturday that soldiers would be deployed at the key transit point, as fears grow that migrants might start using the Mediterranean route to Italy.

“As the EU's external borders are not yet effectively protected, Austria will soon ramp up strict border controls. That means massive border controls at the Brenner Pass, and with soldiers,” Doskozil said.

Greece struggles to launch EU-Turkey plan

Hundreds of migrants arrived on Greek islands over the weekend, as authorities scramble to implement a deal to send them swiftly back to Turkey.

Agenda

EU-Turkey migrant swap to begin next WEEK

Big week to see start of EU migrant returns to Turkey, sensitive talks in Poland on judicial reform, and a Dutch referendum on EU relations masquerading as a vote on Ukraine.

EU-Turkey deal gets reality check

The EU-Turkey deal that came into force on Sunday has not deterred migrants crossing the Aegean sea on its first day. But it raises many questions as Greek and Turkish legal frameworks still need to be set up.

EU sends back 200 migrants, despite legal concerns

Greece returned 202 migrants to Turkey on Monday. The EU has pledged that everyone's rights will be respected. But the UN says Monday's returns might have involved 13 violations.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us