Greece deported a second batch of more than two hundred migrants, mostly Pakistanis, to Turkey on Friday under a controversial European Union deal to stem mass migration.
Greek officials said two boats carrying 124 migrants had been sent back across the Aegean Sea where hundreds have lost their lives in a quest to reach Europe.
A small group of activists leapt into the water, clutching onto the anchor of the first ferry in an unsuccessful bid to stop the deportation, while a group of protesters chanted ‘EU, shame on you’ and ‘Freedom for the refugees’. After arriving at the Turkish harbour town of Dikili, security officials escorted the downcast migrants, clutching blankets and with small backpacks on their shoulders, off the vessels.
A Greek government statement said the migrants included 111 Pakistanis, four Iraqis, as well as citizens of Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Egypt, and a man claiming to be of Palestinian origin. One of the Pakistanis was not accepted by Turkish authorities at Dikili for undisclosed reasons and was returned to Lesbos, the statement said.
The deported migrants arriving in Dikili underwent health checks and registration before they are due to be sent by bus to Kirklareli on the Bulgarian border, from where they are expected to be deported back to their home country.
In a separate operation, another 97 people, mainly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, were returned to Turkey via the land border, Greek police said.
The deportations are taking place under a deal between Turkey and the EU. Turkey has promised to take back all irregular migrants entering Greece since March 20 while Europe has agreed to resettle one Syrian refugee directly from camps in Turkey for each Syrian deported.
Late Thursday, Turkey's parliament approved a deal signed in 2010 allowing for the repatriation of Pakistani migrants, local media reported.
The threat of deportation is aimed at discouraging people from making the often deadly crossing in flimsy boats. The transfers began Monday with some 200 migrants returned to Turkey, but then stalled after a last-minute flurry of asylum applications.
Human rights watchdogs say the scheme is badly flawed, and have raised concerns that migrants may not have the chance to apply for asylum before being deported.
Several European foreign ministers were heading on Friday to Greece and Turkey to discuss the latest developments in the migrant crisis and meet rights groups, Dutch officials said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2016.