ATHENS – After another more than 55,000 refugees and migrants in the last half of 2019 came to Greek islands from Turkey – where they had first gone fleeing war and strife in other countries – only 11 have been sent back under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
The deportees did not qualify for international protection or asylum, Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis announced on social media, the migrants coming from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, and Tunisia.
“We are speeding up procedures, implementing the new law we voted recently,” he said in his comment, referring to New Democracy’s hopes of moving 20,000 off islands to the mainland and opening new detention centers to vet those ineligible for sanctuary.
Since the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement, only about 2000 have been sent back from the scores of thousands sent by human traffickers that Turkey let operate as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan complained the bloc hasn’t lived up to its end of the deal, which includes sending Turkey 6 billion euros ($6.65 billion,) speeding EU entry talks and giving Turkish citizens visa-free travel.
Greek officials said the country is being overwhelmed with refugees and migrants after the EU closed its borders to them and other countries reneged on promises to help take some of the overload for relief.