Sat | Jan 20, 2018

EU begins shipping migrants in Greece back to Turkey

Published:Tuesday | April 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A masked Turkish police officer escorts a migrant off the boat after the first vessel transporting migrants from Greek island of Lesbos docked in Dikili port, Turkey, yesterday.


A controversial European Union plan to curb migration and smash smuggling rings in Turkey began yesterday as 202 migrants from two Greek islands were piled onto boats heading back to Turkey.

Under heavy security, auth orities on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios began the deportations, the first in a plan that has drawn strong criticism from human-rights advocates but is seen by some European nations as the only way to resolve the continent's migration crisis.

The first vessel from Lesbos was escorted into the Turkish port of Dikili by the Turkish coast guard as a Turkish helicopter hovered overhead. The migrants were taken to red-and-white tents for registration and health checks.

About a dozen people stood at the port holding a banner that read "Welcome refugees. Turkey is your home." That came in sharp contrast to protests by locals over the weekend who feared that Dikili would turn into a warehouse for refugees.

A second vessel motored in from Lesbos and a third from Chios. Authorities said most of the people in the first batch were Pakistanis. They were loaded onto buses.

Those who arrived from Lesbos were sent to "reception and removal centre" in the northwestern Kirklareli province on the Black Sea, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency. It said Syrians would be placed in refugee camps and other migrants would be deported.