Turkish officials in Greece for groundwork on refugee swap
REUTERS photoA total of 25 Turkish officials have reached their assigned posts on the Greek islands to work together with Greek officials to coordinate the registration of illegal migrants arriving via Turkey, which has agreed to take them back as part of a Turkey-EU deal.
Eight Turkish officials have gone to Lesbos, six to Chios, five to Samos, while three officials each have gone to Kos and Leros, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
According to the deal reached on March 18 in Brussels between the EU and Ankara, Turkey will take back migrants making the illegal crossing of the Aegean Sea to Greece as of March 20. The returns will begin to take place on April 4 at the earliest.
For every Syrian sent back, the European Union will resettle one Syrian from Turkish refugee camps where 2.7 million people are residing.
In response to Turkish officials assuming duties on Greek islands, Greek officials will also be allowed to work on the migrant question in admission offices on the Turkish coasts.
Some 4,000 officials are needed to conduct the registration processes, the EU has said.
The officials consist of asylum experts, interpreters and security officials. Some 2,300 of the personnel will be provided by EU member countries, but they have yet to reach Greece.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,662 migrants have landed on Greek islands near Turkey since the landmark EU-Turkish deal on curbing the influx took effect on March 20, a Greek coordination panel said March 21.
The day after the formal start of an agreement intended to close off the main route through which a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe last year, authorities said 1,662 people had arrived on Greek islands by 7 a.m., twice the official count of the day before.
Half of the migrants – 830 – arrived on Chios and 698 others on Lesbos, two islands in the northeast Aegean which lie close to Turkey, according to the SOMP agency which is coordinating Athens’ response to the migration crisis.
The continuing influx “creates a problem, and raises questions about the intent of all parties” in the agreement, SOMP spokesman Giorgos Kyritsis said, according to AFP.
On March 21, Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said the utmost care should be given to the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal in order to dispel a number of serious concerns that the deal elicits from a human rights perspective.
“The deal and its legal safeguards should apply not only to Syrians, but to all people reaching Greece or any other EU country,” said Muiznieks in a written statement, adding that the EU, Greece and Turkey have to ensure that additional principles guide the deal’s implementation.
He stated that the EU and its member states “have to provide urgent help to Greece,” adding that it was crucial that Turkey applied “legal and procedural safeguards to all migrants – not only Syrians – who return from Greece.” “This includes the prohibitions of refoulement and collective returns.”
The deal, reached at an EU-Turkey summit, aims at cutting off a route that enabled 850,000 people to pour into Europe last year, many of them fleeing conflict in Syria.
“Protecting refugees is both a moral and a legal obligation. It is not an easy task, but nor is it impossible. The EU-Turkey agreement may be part of the solution but European countries must do more to protect those who flee wars and persecution,” Muiznieks said.