Turkish officials arrive in Greece to help implement EU deal

Turkish officials arrive on Greek island of Lesbos to help implement ‘one in, one out’ refugee deal reached with European Union

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees arrive aboard the Blue Star 1 passenger ship from the islands of Lesbos and Chios at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, February 23, 2016.

At least 18 Turkish officials arrived at the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday to help implement an agreement with the European Union to halt the illegal flow of refugees into Europe.

The officials are expected to work with Greek authorities who began preparations on Saturday, a day before the deal formally came into effect.

The long awaited deal - which is aimed at blocking the influx of refugees into Europe mainly through preventing people smugglers from sending refugees across the Aegean Sea into Greece - was approved by the two sides on Friday.

Under the pact, Ankara will accept back refugees who cross into Greece, in return for the EU taking in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and providing the country with more financial aid, early visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) and European Council President Donald Tusk (R) hold a news conference at the end of an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, March 8, 2016.

Greek authorities said 1,662 people had arrived on the Greek islands by 7 am (0500 GMT) on Monday.

Just after 4:30 am one coastguard vessel rescued 54 refugees and migrants from the open sea and brought them to the port. They were some of the 698 arrivals counted in Lesbos.

The Turkish Coast Guard has also rescued 126 refugees off the coast of western Turkey since Saturday after they tried to reach Greek shores using irregular routes.

According to Greek officials many of the refugees attempting to reach Greece were unaware of the deal, which means new arrivals will now be kept in confinement while their asylum bids are fast-tracked.

Before Friday's deal was reached, refugees were free to wander out of the camp and take ferries to the mainland. Now, they will be held there until their asylum applications are processed and those who are not deemed eligible will be sent back to Turkey, starting on April 4.

TRTWorld and agencies