UPDATE: 2:39 p.m. EDT – An official from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said his nation would cooperate with the United Nations and other international authorities to ensure that a recent deal between Turkey and the European Union is carried out according to humanitarian regulations, the Associated Press reported.
The agreement facilitates a policy where for each Syrian that is returned to Turkey from Greece, one Syrian in a Turkish refugee camp will be resettled in Europe, and the foreign minister vowed that Turkish officials would select those for resettlement without discriminating based on education or religion.
Human rights watchdogs have heavily criticized the agreement, alleging that the policy cannot respect asylum-seekers' rights as it restricts their ability to have their applications thoroughly and fairly processed.
IOM reports the one millionth migrant entered Greece by sea last Saturday. pic.twitter.com/bD34FKshmG
— IOM (@IOM_news) March 21, 2016
UPDATE: 1:45 p.m. EDT –The European Union should send soldiers to police the external borders of Greece amid an ongoing refugee crisis, the Austrian Defense Minister said Monday, without clarifying where those soldiers would come from. His comments came as Greece struggled to implement an EU-Turkey agreement aimed at stemming the flow of migration to the continent, which included patrolling waters to discourage asylum-seekers from attempting to enter the EU through Greece.
"In the past Frontex was responsible for securing the (EU's external) borders but Frontex is too slow because of the way it operates," Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said of the EU's border police Frontex, Reuters reported, adding, "Therefore we suggest ... finding joint solutions in cooperation with ministries of foreign affairs and internal affairs."
— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) March 21, 2016
UPDATE: 12:49 p.m. EDT – The medical non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders warned that the new migration deal put in place by Europe and Turkey would put vulnerable populations at an even higher risk of exploitation, injury and death, in a statement released Monday. The new migration plan aims to discourage asylum-seekers from making the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, while the humanitarian organization said the policy would not discourage migration and would instead push people to attempt more hazardous routes.
"Contrary to what governments claim, the construction of fences at the EU’s external borders over the past years has not lead to a decrease in the number of people trying to cross and seek protection in the European Union: it has only pushed people to take more risks by crossing the sea instead of safer land borders and has forced them to resort to a thriving smuggling business," an excerpt from their statement read.
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) March 21, 2016
UPDATE: 12:06 p.m. EDT – A migration deal struck between the European Union and Turkey will put additional strain on debt-ridden Greece, local officials and experts warned Monday. Under the terms of the agreement, Greece must process asylum claims and return those who are not granted asylum swiftly back to Turkey. In order to process some tens of thousands of applications, Greece has requested additional resources from member states, including funding and personnel, as the Southern European nation continues to contend with its own economic woes, including 24 percent unemployment and high deficits.
"If the foreseen contribution of the European Union turns out to be insufficient, it would result in added pressure on the Greek budget," The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in a report last week.
— george georgiopoulos (@ggeopo) March 21, 2016
UPDATE: 10:40 a.m. EDT – More than 1,600 refugees and economic migrants have landed in Greece since a deal between the European Union and Turkey that looks to crack down on illegal immigration to Europe was implemented Sunday, Agence-France Presse reported. The number of arrivals highlights the obstacles that European authorities will face in enforcing the agreement, as people fleeing escalating conflict in the Middle East continue to risk their lives on the dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece.
— TakePart (@TakePart) March 12, 2016
UPDATE: 9:50 a.m. EDT – The first Turkish monitors arrived in Greece Monday to help implement a migration deal reached between the European Union and Turkey Friday, the BBC reported. Turkish authorities landed on Lesbos and Chios, two Greek islands that have been popular points of entry for Middle Eastern asylum-seekers that reached Europe via nearby Turkey. The deal came into effect Sunday, and it stipulates that all asylum-seekers who arrive from Turkey to Greece will now either need to apply for asylum in Greece or face being returned to Turkey.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 21, 2016
UPDATE: 8:54 a.m. EDT – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned that authorities in his country could not implement a recently agreed-upon migration deal between the European Union and Turkey unless Turkish law enforcement cracked down on smugglers. Nearly 1 million asylum-seekers attempted to cross into Europe from Turkey by the Aegean Sea in 2015, the vast majority of them paying smugglers for the journey.
The deal, signed Friday, stipulates that Greek authorities must process the asylum claims of newly arrived economic refugees and migrants and return those who do not apply for asylum or whose claims are denied. In exchange, the EU has promised to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian that is returned from Greece.
"We have to make an uphill effort because implementation of this agreement will not be an easy issue," Tsipras said, adding, "If a reduction of [refugee] flows does not occur, we will not be able to evacuate the islands successfully so that the deal can start to be implemented fully," the Associated Press reported.
— CNBC (@CNBC) March 21, 2016
Authorities in Greece, a nation that has served as a flashpoint for a continentwide refugee crisis, were struggling Monday to implement a deal struck by European Union and Turkish authorities Friday that aimed to stem the flow of migration to Europe. Under the deal, refugees and migrants who do not apply for asylum or whose asylum claims are rejected will be sent back to Turkey, where many refugees from neighboring Syria have been living before attempting to cross to nearby Greece and seek asylum in Europe.
"The agreement comes into effect from today. Greek authorities have done whatever is necessary and will continue to do what it promised," George Kyritsis, a government spokesman for the refugee crisis, told Reuters Monday, adding, "Other parties (to the agreement) should also do their part."
More than 1 million people sought asylum in Europe in 2015, with hundreds of thousands passing through Greece after taking dangerous boat crossings from Turkey. At least 40,000 refugees are stranded in Greece, as internal borders throughout Europe have been sealed in the past several weeks, and authorities on the ground noted the practical obstacles in implementing the agreement without significant help from other EU countries. Germany and France pledged hundreds of police officers and asylum experts as part of a support staff promised by the EU to Greece to help expedite the asylum claims process.
As part of the agreement, for every asylum-seeker that is returned from Greece, the EU has promised to resettle one Syrian currently in Turkey. The so-called one in, one out plan has been criticized for favoring Syrian refugees over people of other nationalities and ethnicities from places like Iraq, Afghanistan or Eritrea, who may have just as much of a right to political asylum.
In exchange for Turkey’s help implementing the deal, European leaders have promised to allow Turkish nationals access to the visa-free travel Schengen region in Europe, to speed up financial aid of approximately $3.3 billion to Turkey to deal with some nearly 3 million refugees and to "re-energize" discussion surrounding Turkey’s bid for membership in the EU.