Hundreds of mostly Syrian migrants fleeing five years of war continued to make land in Greece on Sunday, arriving on Greek islands in flimsy boats despite an international deal to send migrants back to Turkey.
Witnesses say nearly 900 refugees, including Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, arrived on four Aegean islands overnight into Sunday. Authorities say two Syrian men were found dead in one craft, and two girls drowned near the Turkish mainland off Greek-controlled Rhodes island. The Red Crescent reported nine more migrant deaths off the Libyan coast.
Under the European Union deal reached Friday with the Ankara government, all migrants, including Syrians, arriving in Greece by sea from Turkey after March 20 will be returned once they are registered and their asylum claims have been processed.
But officials continue to warn that return procedures will not be in place before April 4, and are contingent upon EU countries supplying nearly 4,000 staff -- including judges, interpreters and guards -- to manage individual migrant claims.
The deal also requires the Ankara government -- which already hosts more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees -- to step up domestic efforts to crack down on illegal migration. Additionally, it promises $6.6 billion in EU aid to deal with the existing crisis inside Turkey.
Those migrants who arrived in Greek territory before Sunday morning will be processed under old rules that say one Syrian will be settled in a European country for each migrant returned to Turkey.