A controversial European Union plan to curb migration and smash smuggling rings in Turkey began today as 202 migrants from the two Greek islands were piled onto boats and shipped back to Turkey, the Associated Press reported.
Greek authorities said a total of 191 men and 11 women were sent back. Those included 130 people from Pakistan, 42 from Afghanistan, 10 from Iran, five from Congo, four from Sri Lanka, three from Bangladesh, three from India, one each from Iraq, Somalia and Ivory Coast, and two Syrians who had asked to be sent back.
Under heavy security, authorities on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios deported people from 11 nations — the first in a plan that has drawn strong criticism from human rights advocates but is seen by some European nations as the only way to resolve the continent’s migration crisis.
The first vessel from Lesbos was escorted into the Turkish port of Dikili by the Turkish coast guard as a helicopter hovered overhead. The migrants were taken to red-and-white tents for registration and health checks.
About a dozen people stood at the port holding a banner that read “Welcome refugees. Turkey is your home.” That sentiment came in sharp contrast to protests over the weekend by locals who feared that Dikili would turn into a warehouse for refugees.
A second vessel motored in from Lesbos and a third from the nearby island of Chios later today.
Those who arrived from Lesbos were sent to “reception and removal center” in the northwestern Kirklareli province on the Black Sea, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. It said the Syrians would be placed in refugee camps and other migrants would be deported.
In an address to police officers in Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged them to show “compassion’” to the returning migrants and said Syrian refugees from camps in Turkey would be sent to Europe. (Colombo Gazette)