segunda-feira, 4 de abril de 2016

First boats returning migrants and refugees from Greece arrive in Turkey

First boats returning migrants and refugees from Greece arrive in Turkey
Two boats carrying 136 people are at port of Dikili after leaving Greek island of Lesbos early on Monday

Two boats carrying the first migrants to be deported from Greece to Turkey under the EU’s deal with Ankara are waiting to disembark in the Turkish port of Dikili, a few hundred metres from the quayside.

Patrick Kingsley in Dikili, Helena Smith in Mytilene and agencies
Monday 4 April 2016 07.43 BST

According to Greek sources, the 136 deportees are mainly Pakistanis, who were already being deported to Turkey prior to the deal’s creation – meaning that Monday’s deportation is not a true test of whether the agreement can stop the flow of mainly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis to Greece.

Pictures showed the deportations were carried out in a calm manner at dawn, several hours ahead of schedule, on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The first boat to moor in Dikili is a chartered Turkish catamaran, the Nazli Jale. Officials from Frontex, the EU border agency, were seen inside the boat wearing masks. Disembarkation was delayed while officials erect a white tarpaulin on the boat to block the view of the media.

Migrants deported back to Turkey will be sent to the areas they first registered when they first arrived on Turkish soil, or if they never registered, to a detention camp in southern Turkey, Turkish media is reporting.

Several registration tents have been erected on the quay at Dikili, where there is a heavy police presence.

Officials have taken down a huge banner next to the quay that said the citizens of Dikili opposed the dumping of refugees in their seaside town. But local opponents of the deal claim that 4,000 people have signed a petition of complaint.

“Dikili is very small – just 40,000 citizens,” said Emirhan Çekun, as he asked passers-by to sign the petition. “We cannot fit the refugees.”

A Turkish catamaran was also transporting refugees from Chios, another Greek island near Lesbos, on Monday morning Officials had not confirmed how many people were on board.

“The procedure was very calm, everything was orderly,” Frontex spokeswoman Ewa Moncure told reporters at Lesbos harbour.

However, a small group of activists protested outside the port chanting “Shame on you!” Volunteer rescuers protesting at sea lifted a banner above their vessel which read: “Ferries for safe passage, not for deportation.”

Earlier, buses carrying hundreds of refugees bound for deportation arrived at the ports of Lesbos and Chios. On Lesbos, crews were earlier seen loading supplies onto the ships - a small ferry and a catamaran.

The Turkish interior minister, Efkan Ala has, said his country is ready to receive 500 refugees on Monday and Greek authorities have provided 400 names, although these numbers could change.

The expulsion is part of a controversial EU deal to send refugees back across the Aegean Sea. The policy has been criticised by rights groups on ethical grounds.

The European Union signed the controversial deal with Turkey in March as it wrestles with the continent’s worst migration crisis since the second world war, with more than one million people arriving last year.

Under the agreement, designed to halt new arrivals along the most popular route through Turkey, all “irregular migrants” arriving since 20 March face being sent back. Each case is meant to be examined individually.

For every Syrian refugee returned, another Syrian refugee will be resettled from Turkey to the EU, with numbers capped at 72,000.

Police sources on Lesbos on Sunday said there had been a flurry of last-minute asylum applications amongst the 3,300 migrants there.

“We … have over two thousand people that have stated their wish to seek asylum and we need to see a credible process go ahead with the Greek asylum service for those that wish to express their protection concerns,” said Boris Cheshirkov, the UN refugee agency spokesman on Lesbos.

Refugees could also be sent back from other islands that have seen a large influx, such as Chios, where members of EU border agency Frontex were seen arriving Sunday.

More than 52,000 men, women and children are now stranded in Greece, including 3,300 on Lesbos, following the decisions of Balkan countries to close their borders.

Greek officials have been tight-lipped over who and how many refugees will cross the Aegean Sea back to Turkey.

But state news agency ANA reported that some 250 people from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and African nations would be sent back daily between Monday and Wednesday.

Yiorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for Greece’s refugee coordination unit, insisted Monday’s operation only “involves people who have not requested asylum”.

Rights groups have criticised the deal, questioning whether it is legal and ethical.

“We don’t know what is going to actually happen,” senior UN migration official Peter Sutherland said this weekend.

“But if there is any question of collective deportations without individuals being given the right to claim asylum, that is illegal.”

Many refugees on the islands have complained of not being given sufficient time and access to the asylum procedure.

Anas al-Bakhr, a Syrian engineer from Homs who is among those stuck on Chios island, said police marked his arrival date as March 20 - when the deal entered force - even though he arrived the day before.

“They said the computers were broken that day,” he said.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report

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