Tighter security along Turkey’s coast is a key factor behind a sharp fall in the number of migrants arriving in Greece under the EU’s deal with Ankara.
Three days after the agreement came into force, new arrivals on the Greek islands from Turkey dropped to 68 in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning from 225 the previous day, data from the Greek migration ministry showed.
One of those intercepted by the Turkish coastguard and brought back to Dikili in Turkey was Khodor Hosary, a Palestinian man living in Lebanon.
“I applied for a passport in Lebanon. I am Palestinian and I am not allowed to live or work (there). You know, the Palestinian crisis in Lebanon. We don’t have a country or a land,” he said.
“Why are they doing this to us? We have been humiliated. We almost died. We had children travelling with us.”
Anger is also simmering on the Greek islands where asylum applications are piling up as migrants and refugees seek to avoid deportation to Turkey under the agreement.
After a break out from a holding centre on Chios, hundreds of migrants and refugees are sleeping rough at the port.
Some 202 people, the majority from Pakistan, have been returned from Greece since the deal was implemented on Monday. Up to 13 of those sent back are said to have intended to apply for asylum.
Also intent on applying for asylum is Abdul Wahid Dar from Pakistan, one of those now gathered at the Chios port.
Showing papers to reporters, he voiced his fears at the threat of deportation.
“I think all the dreams will be broken if this happens because we came here, we spent a lot of money for this.”
Deportations from Greece have been suspended since Monday, with authorities overwhelmed by the
spike in asylum claims.
On the Greek island of Lesbos, Ali, 22, from Pakistan, said:
“They sent back two guys and they committed suicide. They put a rope around their necks and hanged themselves. If we go back we won’t be able to handle life. Some people have sold their homes. If they are taken back, they will die. What will they do?”
Aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières highlighted the plight of those awaiting deportation from the
Greek island of Samos.
Amid reports that Pope Francis may visit Lesbos next week to meet migrants and refugees, many of them Syrian, human rights groups continue to denounce the deal as a sham that runs roughshod over people displaced by war.