Greece ferried Monday the first group of migrants to Turkey—three boats of some 200 people that marked the start of a controversial European Union plan that will deport some migrants, and, in some cases, replace them with Syrian refugees who have properly undergone the asylum process.
The boats left the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios, then headed across the Aegean Sea, the same path many migrants risked death to cross. At the Turkish port of Dikili, The New York Times reported, migrants waited in line at tents, where they’d be registered, and given health checks.
Hundreds of migrants arrive in Greece every day, about half of whom are fleeing the five-year-long civil war in Syria. In just the first three months of 2016, nearly 151,000 have arrived, according to the International Organization for Migration. In the same period last year, 10,500 made the trip. The EU deal was an attempt to stop the massive influx, and the migrant traffickers who make it possible.
The agreement between the EU and Turkey was reached last month at a summit in Brussels. Under the terms of the deal, migrants who arrived in Greece after March 20 will be deported unless they qualify for asylum. (Many of the people who arrive are not, in fact, from Syria. Some are fleeing unrest in other countries, like Afghanistan, and others are migrants from places such as Pakistan.) In exchange, the EU will accept Syrians who have already qualified for asylum.