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Greece Sends Migrants, Refugees Back to Turkey
   2016-04-04 20:18:26    Xinhua      Web Editor: Li Cong

Migrants get on a ferry at the port of Mytilini on the Greek island of Lesbos April 4, 2016, the first day of the implementation of the deal between the European Union and Turkey. Under the deal, migrants arriving illegally in Greece will be returned to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum, or if they make an asylum claim that is rejected. [Photo:Xinhua/Marios Lolos]

Greece on Monday started sending back to Turkey the first refugees and migrants under an EU-Turkey deal clinched in March to stem the influx into Europe via the Aegean Sea.

In the first batch, some 136 people boarded a Turkish vessel, which departed from the island of Lesvos; 66 people boarded another one from Chios island, the Greek government's migration spokesman told Greek national news agency AMNA.

Most refugees who arrived at the Turkish port of Dikili on Monday -- all escorted by European border control agency Frontex officers -- were Pakistanis, said Yorgos Kyritsis.

More readmissions were expected to be carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Greek government officials.

Monday's process was carried out under stringent security measures, as refugees and humanitarian organizations were protesting the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, voicing strong doubts whether the refugees could receive sufficient protection.

Under the controversial deal, all migrants and refugees who reached Greek shores illegally by sea after March 20 would be deported to Turkey once their asylum bids are deemed not eligible.

Monday's first deportations were carried without major incidents, despite the shouting of activists at the port of Mytilene on Lesvos island.

Police sources had told Xinhua that they were concerned that some of the people to be deported may attempt to dive in the water to escape the deportation.

Dozens of refugees and migrants on Chios island, who had broken out of a detention camp on Friday, were hiding to avoid readmission. Those on Lesvos were protesting inside the hot spots carrying placards with slogans such as "We do not want to go to Turkey. Set us free."

Since early 2015, 1 million refugees and migrants who had landed on Greek shores continued their journey to central and northern Europe.

However, after the gradual border closures along the Balkan route in February, more than 50,000 were trapped in Greece.


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