Greece begins to deport refugees to Turkey

Greece begins to deport refugees to Turkey
Migrants get on a ferry at the port of Mytilini in the Greek island of Lesbos today.

Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have begun placing migrants and refugees on boats heading to Turkey, the first to be deported under an EU plan to limit the amount of migration to Europe.

Under heavy security, the first 135 migrants were being escorted onto the boats as dawn broke today by officers from the EU border protection agency, Frontex.

They were being taken to nearby ports on the Turkish coast under the plan which has been strongly criticised by human rights groups.

About 4,000 migrants and refugees have been detained on Greek islands since the agreement came into effect on March 20.

On the nearby island of Chios, riot police clashed with local residents hours earlier during a protest against deportations planned there.

"All of the migrants returned are from Pakistan except for two migrants from Syria who returned voluntarily," Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for a government refugee crisis committee, told state TV.

"There is no timetable for returns. Examining (asylum) applications will take some time."

He said 136 migrants were deported from Lesbos and 66 from Chios.

"This is the first day of a very difficult time for refugee rights," said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece.

"Despite the serious legal gaps and lack of adequate protection in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead with a dangerous deal.

"Turkey is not a safe third country for refugees. The EU and Greek authorities know this and have no excuse."

The operation was supervised by a lieutenant general of the Greek police and occurred peacefully, as ships departed from Lesbos to the Turkish port of Dikili.

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