More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people.
Under the terms of the EU’s deportation deal 202 people from Greece to Turkey have to-day being forcibly returned to Turkey.
On the island of Lesbos, which lies just across the Aegean Sea from Dikili, the 136 deportees boarded two Turkey-bound boats in what some witnesses described as a “sedate state”. On Chios, a Greek island farther to the south, violence briefly erupted as police attempted to transfer selected deportees to a third ferry.
The calmness of proceedings belied the horror of what they represented.
“This is the bargaining and bartering of human bodies,”
Only two of the 202 deportees were Syrian. The rests were mostly Pakistanis, and so could have been deported back to Turkey under pre-existing international agreements, or Afghans, who the Greek government claimed had elected to return to Greece of their own accord.
“It is absolutely mind-boggling that neither the media nor human rights organisations had access to the detention facilities to monitor the asylum procedures,” said a Human Rights Watch spokesman.
The first day of deportations has been met with affirmative statements by credible international organisations, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who confirmed that all procedures were regular and rights of deportees were observed.
Even as the expulsions were under way, a rubber dinghy with about 40 men, women and children arrived from the shores of Turkey, and on the other side of the Aegean dozens of others were arrested trying to follow in their wake.
Turks are now putting up blue tarp to stop the prying eyes of the press.
The conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest driver of migration. But the ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty in Kosovo, are also leading people to look for new lives elsewhere.
Europe needs to be reminded that Deportation from Europe has a dark history.
Without genuine transparency over the enacting of the EU-Turkey deal, pictures alone won’t be enough. Amid this crisis, children are the most vulnerable of all. Many are travelling with their families, while many others are on their own. Every one of them is in need of protection and entitled to the rights guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This is an appalling deal.
Tensions in the EU have been rising because of the disproportionate burden faced by some countries, particularly the countries where the majority of migrants have been arriving: Greece, Italy and Hungary.
In September, EU ministers voted by a majority to relocate 160,000 refugees EU-wide, but for now the plan will only apply to those who are in Italy and Greece.
Another 54,000 were to be moved from Hungary, but the Hungarian government rejected this plan and will instead receive more migrants from Italy and Greece as part of the relocation scheme.
The UK has opted out of any plans for a quota system but, according to Home Office figures, 1,000 Syrian refugees were resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme in 2015. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years.
Let me ask you.
What would you do to escape ISIS and the Taliban?
Even if we have taken in the odd million.
Shame on us all. That we can’t offer at least temporary sanctuary.
“The journey is difficult but we have no choice,” We have to endure.