Refugee crisis: EU deportations to Turkey from Lesbos continue despite protests

'A dark day for the Refugee Convention, a dark day for Europe and a dark day for humanity'

Matt Broomfield
Friday 08 April 2016 11:44
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A second group of refugees has been deported from Lesbos to Turkey, despite activists attempting to stop the ferry leaving the harbour by clinging onto its anchor.

A ferry carrying 45 Pakistani refugees left Greece for the Turkish port of Dikili on Friday morning. Three volunteers were arrested after jumping into the harbour in Mytilene, trying to stop the boat from leaving the port.

They were dragged from the water by the Greek coastguard, and the ship left for Turkey. Five protestors demanding that the refugees be allowed to remain were also arrested outside the port, where they reportedly clashed with fascist demonstrators.

Amid deportations, refugees scramble to reach Europe

The activists chanted "stop deportations", "EU, shame on you" and "freedom for the refugees".

This was only the second deportation since Ankara agreed their controversial deal with the EU, described by the UK director of Amnesty International as "a dark day for the Refugee Convention, a dark day for Europe and a dark day for humanity."

Under the terms of the deal, the EU will house one of the more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees residing in Turkey for every "irregular" refugee returned from Greece to Turkish shores.

The Erdoğan government has also scooped around £2.3 billion in aid, and is set to secure free movement through the Schengen zone for its citizens and "re-energised" negotiations over EU membership.

However, there is currently only enough room for around 200,000 people in Turkey's refugee camps, while the government has also been accused of denying refugees access to basic supplies and shooting Syrians dead at the border. An estimated 80% of Syrian refugee children in Turkey are unable to attend school.

On Monday, 202 refugees were sent back to Turkey. Deportations have since slowed as refugees rush to be considered for asylum rather than be dispatched to Turkey, which is not considered a "safe country" by charities such as Amnesty.

The UN has also suggested the deal may violate international law. Refugees have a right to be sent to a "safe country", and it is also illegal to carry out "blanket" deportations without considering individual refugees' right to asylum.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law.”

Around 80 refugees are expected to leave Lesbos in a second deportation occuring later today.

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