LESBOS, GREECE —
Greece and the European Union are working to determine who from an estimated group of 3,000 detained migrants will be among the next sent to Turkey under terms of a controversial deal between the EU and Ankara.
No ferries from Greece to Turkey were scheduled for Tuesday.
A Greek government official told VOA the first day of deportations on Monday sent a total of 202 people to Turkey aboard three ferries. Two left from Lesbos carrying 136 migrants, while a third ferry took 66 migrants from Chios. The official said none of those deported had applied for asylum. He said “almost all” all of those sent back to Turkey on Monday were Pakistani, while two were Syrians who chose to go to Turkey for personal and family reasons.
Refugee children are seen onboard a Greek Coast Guard vessel, carrying other refugees and migrants, as it arrives at the port of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos, following a rescue operation at open sea, April 5, 2016.
As part of a swap deal with Turkey, the EU has pledged to rehouse one Syrian in the bloc for every migrant deported from Greece, with numbers capped at 72,000.
Forty-three Syrian asylum seekers were flown to Europe Monday under that part of the deal. Thirty-two of them arrived in the northern German city of Hanover.
Eleven other refugees arrived in Finland, with more expected Tuesday in the Netherlands.
Human rights groups concerned
Not long after the first boatload of deportees left Mytilini, human rights activists gathered to protest near the port entrance where they competed for space with journalists. On the water, protesters held a banner between two boats that read “Ferries Are for Safe Passage, Not for Deportation,” before a Greek coast guard vessel approached and its crew ordered the protesters to end their demonstration.
Demonstrators, mostly from international NGOs, gathered in Lesbos Monday to protest the first of the deportations of migrants from Greece to Turkey, April 4, 2016.
Others on shore held signs reading “Stop the Dirty Deal,” and “Wake Up Europe.” At the request of an international television news crew, one group broke into chant, saying “EU, Shame on You.”
Demonstrators were infuriated by what they said was an attempt by Greek and EU officials to carry out what they view as a dirty deed, in an antiseptic, secretive fashion.
“It’s a shame what’s happening here. It’s a shame for all of European countries who are letting this happen,” a demonstrator from the Netherlands who identified herself by her first name only, Mariella, told VOA. “We are not talking about export products. We are talking about people,” she said.
EU, Turkey Agreement
A Turkish police officer speaks with a migrant after a vessel transporting migrants from Greek island Chios docked in Dikili port, Turkey, April 4, 2016.
The deal reached by the European Union and Turkey in mid-March grants $3.6 billion dollars in aid to Turkey in exchange for Turkey’s commitment to take back migrants, regardless of nationality, who arrived in Greece without inspection after embarking in Turkey.
People subject to deportation are those who arrived after the 20th of March and who are not eligible for, or do not want to apply for asylum.
Still more migrants
But the influx of migrants continues. Officials said 300 arrived in Greece on Sunday alone, fueling complaints by the Greek government, which has accused Turkey of not doing enough to intercept the flow of illegal migrants.