Refugees returned from Greece await fate in Turkish migrant centre

Refugees returned from Greece await fate in Turkish migrant centre
Refugees are escorted by police officers as they disembark from a ferry at a port in the Turkish coastal town of Dikili, Turkey, April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Tuncay Dersinlioglu
5 years ago

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PEHLIVANKOY, TURKEY -- Refugees returned from Greece to Turkey as part of a European Union deal called for freedom from behind barred windows on Friday (April 8) as they awaited news of their fate in a camp from near the Bulgarian border.

The accord, which came into force on Monday (April 4), aims to help end a chaotic influx into the European Union of migrants and refugees, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, after more than 1 million arrived last year.

Around 325 people have now been sent back from the Greek islands under the plan, which the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has condemned and rights advocates say may violate international law.

They are to be sent to the "reception and removal" centre in a fenced compound in Pehlivankoy, 230km north-west of Istanbul. UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal said the agency was still negotiating for access to the camp there.

The first ferry on Friday carried a group of 44 Pakistani men, Turkey's interior ministry said.

As buses carrying groups from the first ferry arrived at centre, current inhabitants shouted from the windows: "No Pakistan" and "Freedom, freedom".

Turkey's parliament approved overnight an agreement enabling Ankara to repatriate Pakistani migrants, as people continue to be sent to Turkey from Greece as part of the EU deal to stem mass migration to Europe.

The second ferry on Friday, which arrived shortly after 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT), carried 79 people, including refugees from Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq, a Turkish official told Reuters.

There were no Syrians on either boat, the official said, and the second group appeared to be almost all men, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene.

No boats are expected over the weekend, Turkish officials said.

Under the EU-Turkey agreement, Ankara will take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who enter Greece through irregular routes.

In return, the EU will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward Ankara with more money, early visa-free travel for its citizens and progress in negotiations to join the bloc.