Some 750 refugees likely will be sent back to Turkey from Greece early next week as part of the deal the European Union made with Turkey to ease the European refugee crisis, Greek officials said Saturday.
“Planning is in progress,” Yiorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for Greece’s refugee coordination unit, told Agence France-Presse.
The Greek state news agency ANA reported the refugees will travel from the island of Lesbos to Dikili, Turkey, aboard two chartered Turkish ships. Cesme Mayor Nuhittin Dalgic said work is underway at a tourist resort in his town to house the refugees. Another readmission center is being set up in Dikili.
Some 150,000 refugees have tried to cross the Aegean Sea this year in efforts to start new lives in Europe.
The highly criticized deal will see one person from Turkey resettled in Europe for every refugee sent back from Greece up to 72,000. Humanitarian groups have said the deal turns Greece into a detention center for people who risked their lives to escape the horrors of their homelands. Amnesty International said the EU deal has fatal flaws and accused Turkey of forcing about 100 Syrians, including women and children, to return home daily — a charge Turkey denies.
The U.N. refugee agency said Friday protections for asylum-seekers are lacking, the Financial Times reported. Overcrowded conditions at refugee holding facilities have produced rioting and stabbings.
Most of the refugees hail from Syria, but others are from Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Africa.
“If they make me go back to Turkey I’ll throw myself and my family into the sea,” Mustafa, a Syrian waiting with his wife and children at the port of Chios island, told AFP.
“We went from hell to hell,” he said.
Frontex, which coordinates European border issues, is to help with the process.
Authorities Friday increased the police presence on both Aegean islands and Idomeni in the north to stem the violence at refugee centers, ekathimerini.com reported. Dozens of refugees clashed in the port city of Piraeus Wednesday, prompting the move, while hundreds broke through a fence on Chios, hoping to make their way onto vessels heading for the mainland.
Turkey currently hosts 2.7 million refugees from Syria and plans to send a first batch “in the double-digit range” directly to Germany on Monday, most of them families with children, German Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said.
More than 52,000 refugees were stranded in debt-racked Greece after Balkan states closed their borders earlier this year. Hundreds more arrive daily.