ATHENS: Yesterday Greek officials declined to comment on a report it will send some 750 migrants back to Turkey from Monday to kick off a controversial EU readmissions deal. The report by state news agency ANA said the operation would take migrants from the island of Lesbos to the Turkish port of Dikili between Monday and Wednesday.
“Planning is in progress,” Yiorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for Greece’s refugee coordination unit, told AFP, while declining to comment further. ANA said EU border agency Frontex had chartered two Turkish leisure vessels for the purpose, and that Frontex police would be on hand to escort the migrants on a one-to-one basis.
Government officials have been tight-lipped on the scheme, which has attracted strong criticism on ethical grounds from the United Nations refugee agency and aid groups. Critics have warned that the Greek registration sites would become de facto detention centres for people slated to be sent back to Turkey after risking their lives and spending a small fortune just to reach Europe.
A Greek government source told AFP this week that some 400 Frontex police officers were expected to arrive over the weekend to participate in the operation. Parallel to this operation, Turkey on Monday will begin sending a first batch of refugees directly to Germany.
German interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate this week said that most of the arrivals expected Monday would be families with children, putting the number in the “double-digit range”. Under the EU pact, all irregular migrants who have landed on the Greek islands since March 20 face being sent back to Turkey-although the deal calls for each case to be examined individually.
And for every Syrian refugee sent back, another Syrian refugee will be resettled from Turkey to the EU, with the numbers capped at 72,000. Athens has struggled to manage the influx, while hundreds of migrants have drowned crossing the Aegean from Turkey to the Greek islands.
Clashes among migrants and refugees have broken out at Greek facilities. On Friday hundreds of migrants walked out of a registration centre on the island of Chios following fresh violence, prompting a leading medical charity to pull out its staff.
Over 52,000 refugees and migrants seeking to reach northern Europe are already stuck in Greece after Balkan states sealed their borders. Hundreds more continue to land on the Greek islands on a daily basis, despite the EU deal, which was approved by the Greek parliament in a vote Friday.
Amnesty International this week said there were “fatal flaws” in the EU’s migrant deal. The rights group said its research in the south of Turkey suggested the country was forcing around a hundred Syrians including women and children to return home on a daily basis.-AFP