Greece Begins Sending Migrants Back to Turkey Under EU Accordby
Boats carrying 202 undocumented immirants reached Turkey
Returns to continue for those not entitled to asylum in EU
Greece sent back the first batch of migrants to Turkey on Monday, implementing an accord signed in March to stem the flows of refugees into the European Union.
A total of 202 immigrants, mostly men of Pakistani origin, left the Greek islands of Chios and Mytilini, according to a spokeswoman at the Greek Prime Minister’s press office. Two of them were Syrians who asked to return to Turkey for “family reasons.”
The EU and Turkey reached an accord on March 18 under which all migrants who crossed from Turkey to Greece as of March 20 -- those not applying for asylum or those whose applications have been deemed inadmissible -- will be returned to Turkey. For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another will be resettled to the EU from Turkey directly.
The European Commission said that 32 Syrian refugees were resettled in Germany and 11 in Finland on Monday. A group of Syrian refugees is expected to leave for the Netherlands on Tuesday. Greece has agreed to provide shelter in hot spots for about 20,000 refugees that entered the country before the deal took place, while the rest will be relocated to other EU countries.
More than 400 refugees crossed the sea to the Greek islands over the weekend, with the total number of refugees in the country rising to 52,451 as of 8 a.m. this morning, according to e-mailed statement from the government, with Greece’s hot spots currently having a capacity to host 41,360 refugees.
Meanwhile, 11,290 refugees remain at Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia, hoping to cross over to other European countries. The number of stranded refugees on the border with FYROM reached more than 13,000 on the first days of the implementation of the March 18 agreement. A total of 4,725 refugees stranded at Greece’s main port of Piraeus will be gradually transferred to hot spots, according to the government.