Migrant Crisis: Greece Deports Second Group to Turkey Amid Protests

Part Of The EU-Turkey Deal To Cut Number Of Migrants Entering Europe

Amid protests, Greece filled a Turkish ferry boat at the Port of Lesbos with 45 Pakistani men and sent them back to Turkey on Friday. This was the second batch of deported migrants, 200 having been sent back from Lesbos and Chios on Monday. Another group of 80 was scheduled to leave later on Friday.

Pakistani’s make up the fourth-largest group of illegal migrants in Greece, behind Iraqis, Afghans, and Syrians, in that order.

Part Of The Deal

The deportations are part of a deal reached between the EU and Turkey in March. Details of that agreement are as follows:

  • All migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece after March 20 will be sent back.
  • Those migrants who apply for asylum will be assessed individually by the Greek authorities. Only those who are accepted may stay.
  • Priority will be given to migrants who did not enter try to enter the EU illegally.
  • Turkey will receive an allocation of 6 billion Euros to assist Turkey in helping the migrants through 2018.
  • For every migrant sent back, the EU will accept one who has been approved for asylum. This number will be capped at 72,000.
  • Turkish citizens will be afforded visa-free travel to EU nations beginning in June.
  • Talks on Turkey’s bid to join the EU will resume in July.

Controversy Surrounding The Deal

A number of international relief and aid organizations have criticized the deal, stating that Turkey readily agreed to it for the chance to move quickly on its bid to join the EU. Amnesty International insists that Turkey is not a “safe country” for the refugees.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also stated that, unless all conditions are met, Turkey will walk away from the deal.

“These are precise conditions. If the European Union does not take the necessary steps, then Turkey will not implement the agreement,” he stated, adding, “Some three million people are being fed on our budget.”

Many observers believe that Turkey will expect a relaxation on EU membership rules because it is housing refugees.

Fate Of Migrants In Turkey And In Greece

It is unclear exactly what Turkey’s plans are for assisting the migrants other than to house them in refugee camps. No long-term discussions or plans have been announced.

For those who entered Greece illegally, crowded detention facilities and hours’ long waits for food are common.

Fate Of Migrants In Greek Detention Facilities

Migrants who have not been deported from Greece are being held in detention facilities while their individual cases are evaluated. Many refugees in the detention facilities claim they know nothing about the EU-Turkish agreement.

Rada Ali, along with her husband and son, were rescued from a dinghy by the Greek Coastguard last week. She was looking forward to reuniting with her older son in Sweden. Now the family has been told that they may be returned to Turkey.

“Back to Turkey? No. Turkey, no!” was her reaction.

To make matters worse, she and her husband have no idea what “applying for asylum” means or how to go about it. Without that application, they will be considered economic – not political – refugees and will be deported.


Merkel Pleased

German Chancellor Andrea Merkel appears happy that the flow of migrants has slowed significantly. Germany accepted 1.1 million last year. In a press conference, she stated:

“I am very happy today, however, I know that we have not yet completed all the tasks before us.”

Germany is expected to release figures today that show a deep decline in requests for asylum due to the EU-Turkish agreement and to the fact that countries along the route north of Greece have closed their borders.

Papal Visit To Lesbos Planned

Pope Francis announced yesterday that he will visit the island of Lesbos on April 16 in a show of support for the refugees and in hopes of keeping the international spotlight on the crisis. He has urged Catholic churches in Europe to take in as many migrant families as they can.

As for the migrants in the detention facilities? They must find a way to request political asylum or face a return to Turkey.

[Photo by Petros Giannakouris/AP]