By Madeleine Hillyer,
International News Assistant Editor
Monday, April 4, marked the start of the deportation of migrants from Greece to Turkey. Ferries from ports on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios left for Turkey carrying 202 migrants with them. Frontex, the EU border protection agency, carried out the deportation of these immigrants, ensuring that they reached Turkish ports safely.
According to Frontex and Turkish officials, a majority of the migrants returned to Turkey are Pakistani, with only two of the returned migrants being Syrian. According to the BBC, it has been announced by Greek authorities that these two Syrian migrants returned voluntarily.
These deportations are the result of a new agreement between the EU and Turkey that came into effect on March 20. In this deal, migrants who have arrived in Greece through Turkey after March 20 will be returned to Turkey if they are not granted asylum by Greek authorities.
In this new deal between the EU and Turkey, migrants who entered Europe through Turkey will be returned there until they are approved to enter the EU through official channels. This deal was reached in an attempt to curb the mass increase of migrants who have been entering Greece in the hopes of making it to the Northern EU countries. Since Greece’s Northern borders were shut many migrants have been stuck in Greece, causing multiple problems for the Greek government. EU officials hope that this new policy will slow the migration of immigrants to Greece.
In return for these migrants being returned, the EU will begin to accept more from Turkey, which is experiencing issues due to increased migration to their country as well. In exchange for the migrants deported to Turkey, 16 Syrian migrants were accepted into the German city, Hannover. It is expected more migrants from Turkey will be accepted into an EU country in the near future.
While many government officials support this policy, there has been a lot of backlash from activists and human rights organizations.
According to CBS, the director of Amnesty International in Greece, Giorgos Kosmopoulos spoke on April 4th about the deportations, saying, “This is the first day of a very difficult time for refugee rights. Despite the serious legal gaps and lack of adequate protection in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead with a dangerous deal,” he continued, “Even if this first group is not refugees, what we are seeing here is a symbolic kick off of what might be a very dangerous practice of returns to Turkey.”
According to CBS, other activists have raised concerns over the asylum process in Greece. Many migrants have reported difficulty getting information from the government about the asylum process, which could prevent migrants who would otherwise qualify for asylum from staying in Greece.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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