EU-Turkey Deal

Greece readies to send first batch of migrants back

GREECE-MACEDONIA-EUROPE-MIGRANTS Migrants and refugees block the highway near the town of Polykastro to protest for the opening of the Greek-Macedonian border, on Saturday | AFP
  • Some 750 migrants would be sent from the island of Lesbos to the Turkish port of Dikili between Monday and Wednesday in the first wave of deportations under the much-criticised deal.

Greek authorities were gearing up today to send hundreds of failed asylum-seekers back to Turkey, which is racing to set up reception centres under a controversial EU migrant deal.

"Planning is in progress," Yiorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for Greece's refugee coordination unit, told AFP as Greek state agency ANA said some 750 migrants would be sent back between Monday and Wednesday, the first wave of deportations under the much-criticised deal.

ANA said the migrants would be sent back from the island of Lesbos to the Turkish port of Dikili, adding that EU border agency Frontex had chartered two Turkish leisure vessels for the operation.

There will be one Frontex agent onboard for every single migrant, ANA said. Kyritsis declined to comment on the report.

On the other side of the Aegean—a sea crossed this year alone by more than 150,000 people searching for a new life in Europe—work is underway on a centre in the Turkish tourist resort of Cesme to host those sent back, the town's mayor Muhittin Dalgic said on Saturday.

Water pipes and electricity cables are being laid for the 500 square-metre area by the Ulusoy harbour in Cesme, a popular hopping-off point for migrants setting sail in flimsy boats to the Greek island of Chios.

Another readmission centre is being created in Dikili opposite Lesbos, which like neighbouring islands has seen a massive influx of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Greek government officials have been tight-lipped on the EU-Turkey deal, which has attracted strong criticism on ethical grounds from the United Nations refugee agency and aid groups.

Charities say Greek registration sites will 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.

Under the deal, all irregular migrants face being sent back from the Greek islands to Turkey—although the deal calls for each case to be examined individually.

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

Turkey and the EU agreed the deal last month as the continent struggles with its worst migration crisis since World War II.

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