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Greece expels first migrants to Turkey

BBC News BBC News 4/04/2016

The first boat carrying migrants being deported from Greece has arrived in Turkey as part of an EU plan aimed at easing mass migration to Europe.

Scores of migrants boarded ferries on the Greek island of Lesbos and arrived in Dikili, western Turkey.

Frontex, the EU's border agency, told the BBC that most of the 136 people who left Lesbos on Monday were Pakistanis.

Meanwhile, the first group of 16 Syrian migrants has arrived in Germany from Turkey, officials say.

Under the deal, for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU is due to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request.

However, Greek authorities said the first deportees were those who had not applied for asylum, and included citizens from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Morocco.

And Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said there were no Syrians among the first group of migrants sent from Greece.

Graphic detailing migrant arrivals to Greece in 2016 © Getty Images Graphic detailing migrant arrivals to Greece in 2016 Another ferry carrying migrants to Turkey is also due to leave the Greek island of Chios on Monday.

The returns were carried out calmly, despite a small protest at the gate of Lesbos port, where activists shouted 'No to deportations' and 'EU shame on you', the BBC's Sarah Rainsford at the scene said.

Migrants await fate on Lesbos

EU-Turkey deal a 'Herculean task'

Under the EU-Turkey deal, migrants arriving illegally in Greece are expected to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

But migrants in Greece have complained of a lack of information about the asylum procedure and some said they were unaware they could be returned.

Frontex has less than one-tenth of the staff needed to do the job, the Associated Press reported.

Activists hold a banner which says "Stop deportations, open borders" in the Turkish coastal town of Dikili © Reuters Activists hold a banner which says "Stop deportations, open borders" in the Turkish coastal town of Dikili Both Turkey and Greece have made a panicked rush to meet this deadline - and neither country is really ready. 

Only a fraction of the necessary staff have arrived on the Greek islands to accompany the process and in Turkey the preparation is still sketchy.

Two tents have been erected in Dikili to register the first group from Lesbos, with similar facilities further south to receive migrants sent from Chios.

The Turkish interior minister says non-Syrians will be deported while Syrians will be sent to refugee camps where they will replace those who will be directly resettled in Europe as part of the "one for one" plan.

But there are still grave doubts over whether the deal will hold and if the migrants will be properly treated when they arrive here.

The arrangement has alarmed rights groups, who say Turkey is not a safe country for migrants.

Amnesty International has accused Turkey of illegally returning Syrians to their homeland, something Turkey denies.

Save the Children called the deal "illegal and inhumane", saying people told them they would kill themselves if sent back to Turkey.

Migrants on the Greek island of Chios have protested against the deal

A migrant boy holds up a sign reading 'No Turkey': Migrants on the Greek island of Chios have protested against the deal © AFP Migrants on the Greek island of Chios have protested against the deal

Since the deal was struck in March, about 400 people have been arriving each day on the Greek islands.

Tens of thousands have been stuck in Greece after northern countries closed their borders. There have been clashes in camps amid dire conditions.

One million migrants and refugees have entered the EU by boat from Turkey to Greece since last year.

Many are keen to travel to Germany and other northern EU countries and experts have warned the deal could force them to take alternative, more dangerous routes.

In Austria meanwhile, pro-migrant protesters clashed with police at a border crossing with Italy.

It comes after Austrian Defence Minister Peter Doskozil said soldiers would be deployed at a key transit point, saying the EU's outer borders were not properly protected.

Map locator © BBC Map locator

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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