No new refugees made it to Greece after EU-Turkey deal

Greece says it marked first day without refugee arrivals after deal between EU, Turkey

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A fishing boat overcrowded with Syrian refugees approaches a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos, Greece, September 27, 2015

Greece said on Thursday no refugees had arrived on its Aegean islands in the past 24 hours since a deal between European Union and Turkey aimed to halt the refugee influx came into force at the weekend.

With common efforts of Turkish and Greek officials the refugee flow is seemed to be controlled. However, the high-level panel dealing with refugee related issues in Greece cautioned that bad weather might be the reason why no boats have arrived from Turkey.

The deal came into effect on early Sunday after it was agreed on Friday but could not immediately be implemented as Greece struggled to enforce it. The country has received 1,662 people on Monday, 600 on Tuesday and 260 on Wednesday despite efforts.

Under the pact, refugees arriving Greece after March 20 will be deported to Turkey unless their asylum application is approved.

The deal also outlines that a limited number of around 72,000 out of 3 million Syrian refugees will be allowed in Turkey, while visa-liberalisation process for Turkish citizens in Europe will be accelerated and refugee aid will be doubled to 6,8 billion euros. The deal could be abandoned if the number exceeds the number specified in the agreement.

The deal came in a week where European Union leaders agreed on a wide range of proposals with Turkey to solve the refugee crisis.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) and European Council President Donald Tusk meet in Ankara, Turkey, March 15, 2016

Last week, EU member Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the bloc expects the crossings to Europe to stop within three, four weeks.  

"There is no alternative, we have to come to a deal," he added.

"If not the situation in Greece will remain very serious, come to a crisis. It is crucial that we come to a deal now and tomorrow."

There are also fears the shutdown of the Turkey-Greece route could encourage people to attempt the even more dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Italy.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said "hundreds of thousands" of refugees were in Libya hoping to cross to Europe.

More than 100,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea in the first two months of 2016 alone, according to the UN refugee agency.

The International Organization for Migration says 418 refugees including many children died in the Mediterranean in the first two months of 2016 as they attempted to reach Europe.

TRTWorld and agencies