Thousands of migrants due to be returned to Turkey stuck on Greek islands

Thousands of migrants, including women and children, are stuck in overcrowded camps on Greek islands to be returned back to Turkey, based on a deal the EU made with Ankara in March 2016, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

“Almost 17,000 women, men and children… are trapped in chaotic and dangerous conditions, with many unable to get basic services. Most are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan,” HRW said.

Reports from Greek camps suggest that vulnerable migrants, such as women and children, are at high risk of abuse as the camps lack security. The migrants in these camps are also struggling with lack of electricity, showers or running water.

“Meanwhile, the numbers of asylum seekers entering Greece via the land border with Turkey is increasing. Those people cannot be sent back to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal at all since it only covers arrivals by sea,” HRW added.

Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Greece deteriorated after Greek courts released Turkish servicemen who had requested asylum in Greece after being accused of having a role in the 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey. In reaction to this, last month Turkey rejected the readmission of the migrants from Greece.

Meanwhile, the Greek migration minister, Dimitris Vitsas, has criticised the prime ministers of Austria and Hungry who are demanding stronger enforcement of the EU rule that undocumented migrants should be sent back to their first country of arrival, Greece.

“As a government, we will not accept turning the country into a warehouse of souls,” Vitsas said in an interview with radio station Parapolitika. “There are European leaders who are trying to impose a policy of autocracy, a policy of fortress-Europe. Mr. Kruz and Mr. Orban are trying to impose a phobic agenda. This will not be accepted.”

In reference to a deal signed between Germany and Greece, the migration minister said that the migrants who are returned from Germany to Greece will remain on the mainland and not go back to the islands.

TMP – 06/08/2018

Photo caption: Idomeni, Greece -Child in a transit camp at the Greek-Macedonian border.

 

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