The second group of ferries left Greece for Turkey Friday with migrants to be returned across the Aegean Sea as part of a deal between the European Union and Ankara.
The boats left the islands of Samos, Kos, and Lesbos with 120 migrants for the Turkish town of Dikili. Many were Pakistani, Turkey’s interior minister said, and others were from Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
The deportations began Monday as part of a deal to slow the influx of migrants to Europe, and also reduce the human-smuggling business. Under the controversial deal, any migrant who arrived after March 20––and who had not filed for asylum––would be deported to Turkey. In exchange, the EU would take an equal number of Syrian refugees. One challenge the EU has faced amid the worst migrant crisis on the continent since World War II is differentiating between those it considers genuine asylum-seekers, typically Syrians, from those it doesn’t. The deal is meant to address those concerns. The agreement also would give Turkey around $3.2 billion to help with the millions of Syrians who’ve fled there since the start of their civil war five years ago.
After Monday, the first day that boats ferried migrants back to Turkey, protests on the Greek islands shut down further deportations. Some migrants sat in the middle of roads and refused to move. One man, inside the Moria registration camp, climbed to the top of a utility pole Wednesday and threatened to hang himself. Even Friday, as the boats readied to depart, local Greek protesters swam in front of a boat, hoping to stop it. Eventually, the coast guard pulled them from the water and took the protestors to a police station, The Guardian reported.
European countries had at first allowed migrants to cross the borders freely. But in early March, Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia closed their borders, creating a bottleneck on the migrant route and backlogs in Greece.
About 325 migrants have now been expelled from Greece—with Friday’s second round of deportations. Meanwhile, Greek authorities said that in the past 24 hours about 150 more migrants had crossed the Aegean Sea. Many arrived on the same islands from which the others had just been deported.