The first repatriation of foreign nationals from Greece to Turkey after last month’s signing of the most recent EU-Turkey agreement occurred on Monday, with a group of third country nationals – identified as irregular migrants – transported by ferryboat from the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos (Lesbos) and Chios (Hios) to the small Turkish port of Dikili.
The 202 people deported to Turkey were mostly Pakistanis, with only two Syrian nationals included. The two Syrians reportedly requested their return to Turkey to reunite with their families, according to a ruling party MP, Giorgos Kyritsis, who has assumed the role of a press spokesman for the government on the refugee crisis.
On paper, at least, the EU-Turkey agreement foresees the repatriation of all Mideast war refugees and third country nationals – irregular or undocumented migrants – that have illegally entered Greece from Turkish territory.
In return, the EU will accept the relocation of thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey, via legal and safe routes, as opposed to employing traffickers plying the waters of the eastern Aegean or smuggling rings herding people along land routes. Ankara is also expected to get more financial assistance and a stepped up timetable for visa-free travel for its citizens.