Monday marked a turning point in Europe’s refugee crisis, with the first group of migrants shipped back to Turkey from Greece as part of a contentious plan shrouded in protests.
Around 130 migrants — mostly from Pakistan and Bangladesh — boarded two ferries at dawn from the Greek island of Lesbos and traveled to the Turkish port of Dikili, according to officials.
Another ferry left from the island of Chios and brought the total number of migrants transported to 202, according Frontex, the EU border agency.
It said 180 Frontex officers along with Greek officers were deployed to escort the migrants. Greek riot police squads also boarded the boats before they set sail, The Associated Press reported.
Human Rights Watch’s Eva Cosse called Monday a “turning point” that could be a harbinger of a “gross violation of human rights.”
“There’s no transparency for the procedures,” she said from Lesbos, describing how officials have refused to grant international monitors access to the deportations. “We have real concerns that they are hiding things.”
Protests surrounded the entire process. A banner reading “RepealTheDeal” was hung across from the harbor in Greece while protesters flew a “Wake Up Europe” banner just inside.
Small vessels of volunteer lifeguards also protested the deportations, hanging signs that read “ferries for safe passage not deportations.”
The European Union’s deal with Turkey has been condemned as illogical if not illegal by rights groups since its inception. The United Nations has warned the agreement lacks legal safeguards and Amnesty International called it “alarmingly short-sighted and inhumane.”
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: NBC News, Cassandra Vinograd