Turkey, EU begin refugee swap to control influx
Refugees held up in Greece dread going back to Turkey and face an uncertain future. Meanwhile, a batch of Syrians arrived in Germany from Istanbul on Monday (April 4), while another group of migrants arrived in Turkey from Greece on the same day under an EU-Turkey migrant deal aimed at stopping the influx of refugees into Europe. A long-negotiated European Union accord with Turkey went into effect last month, and on Monday, the Greek and European Union authorities effectively started forcing people out, as police officers began enforcing a programme of mass deportations of migrants back to Turkey. Over 100 officers from the European border agency Frontex marched 136 migrants who had been held in a closed, military-run camp in Greece onto the ramp of two ferries.
With Greek riot police flanking the port, the boats set sail to the western Turkish town of Dikili, where the migrants — mostly Pakistanis — disembarked and were taken into tents for processing before being loaded onto buses. No Syrian refugees were present in the first group of migrants that arrived back in Turkey on Monday, Volkan Bozkir, the European affairs minister for Turkey, said in a statement. Around 66 migrants were also shipped back to Turkey on Monday morning from the Greek island of Chios, where riots recently broke out among asylum seekers who feared that they might not be able to stay in Europe. More than 800 migrants broke out of a military camp there Saturday to protest what humanitarian groups said were prison-like conditions.
Germany received 40 Syrians, mostly women and children, from Turkey later on Monday, as part of a broader European Union initiative intended to help process asylum seekers and to deter illegal crossings into Europe from Turkey — as well as the smugglers behind them. Turkey and the European Union sealed a deal last month requiring migrants who illegally reach Greece from Turkey after March 20 to be returned to Turkey unless they qualify for asylum — a status that was recently limited to Iraqis and Syrians. In return, the European Union has pledged to take in thousands of Syrian refugees from Turkey as well as to give Ankara more than 6 billion euros, or about $6.8 billion, in aid to improve conditions for migrants living in Turkey.
The first group of Syrian refugees that were sent to Germany from Turkey were picked by the German authorities and the UNHCR, after Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration Management sent them a list they had prepared, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News on April 4. In the video below, a Syrian refugee says he did not know of the European Union’s deal to turn back migrants landing in Greece and that he and fellow refugees have suffered in Turkey and do not want to return.