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Pakistani Migrants Could Be First Deported Under EU-Turkey Deal

  • Henry Ridgwell

The volunteer-run "Better Days for Moria" camp has hosted thousands of migrants arriving on Greece's Lesbos island, but its days appear to be numbered.

A new deal between Europe and Turkey means that all new arrivals will be detained in a secure facility next door.

The last remaining residents are mainly Pakistanis who do not normally qualify for asylum.

“We hope, we wish that the Greece government gives us asylum, that we can stay legally, because we don’t want to stay in an illegal way,” said Pakistani migrant Tavakal Hussain, 36. “So we hope that, we wish, we want the Greece government to feel mercy and sorry for us, because we put our lives in risk in the sea. We don’t want to go back to Turkey. We love to stay in Greece.”

Such pleas for mercy are unlikely to be enough. One hundred fifty Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants were taken by ferry from Lesbos to the Greek mainland under police escort Monday to have their applications processed.

Among the migrants, there is much fear about what lies ahead.

Pakistani men charge their mobile phones in a makeshift migrant camp made by volunteers near the village of Moria, Lesbos island , Greece, March 22, 2016.

Pakistani men charge their mobile phones in a makeshift migrant camp made by volunteers near the village of Moria, Lesbos island , Greece, March 22, 2016.

Michele Telaro, field director on Lesbos for the aid agency Doctors Without Borders, said the uncertainty is adding to a growing mental health problem.

“They are in distress. They are in a very difficult situation and it’s very difficult to help them to cope, to help them to continue to be healthy ... especially because here people are in transit,” he told VOA Monday.

Most of the remaining Pakistani migrants on Lesbos who are being transferred to the mainland will be detained until their asylum cases are processed.

If that fails, they could be offered repatriation. But Pakistan has been refusing to readmit migrants who do not have the correct documentation. For some migrants, even returning home could be a long, difficult journey.

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