Protests in Greece and Turkey over EU refugee deal
Protests against the presence of refugees take place in Greece and Turkey as EU deal is about to get implemented.
A plan to send back refugees and migrants from Greece to Turkey sparked demonstrations by local residents in both countries, two days before the deal brokered by the EU is set to be implemented.
At the same time, refugees stranded at a makeshift camp in a small town on Greece’s border with Macedonia staged a protest demanding that the border be opened and that they be allowed to continue their journeys to central and northern Europe.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Lesbos, said the arrivals are continuing despite the fact that the EU-Turkey deal came into force on March 20.
“Greek officials are saying that undoubtedly arrivals have slowed but they have not stopped. Once they see the deportations happen then people will not be relying on hope but will be seeing for themselves that Europe’s gates have been shut,” Khodr.
The returns are a key part of an agreement between the EU and Turkey aimed at ending the uncontrollable influx into Europe of refugees and migrants fleeing war and misery in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Under the deal, those who cross into Greece illegally will be held and sent back once their asylum applications are processed. For every Syrian returned, one Syrian will be resettled to Europe directly from Turkey.
The refugees’ continued presence led several dozen local residents to stage a protest on Saturday.
They blocked a road for about an hour to demand the evacuation of more than 11,000 stranded refugees to “transit centres” across the Greek mainland.
“The police know what they must do … they must be issued orders,” said Georgios Georgantas, a politician with the conservative opposition New Democracy party, who joined the protesters.
He called for the “immediate” evacuation of the Idomeni camp “using violence, if necessary”.
Idomeni residents alleged that some refugees had broken into empty homes in the town and said they no longer felt safe.
Refugees stuck at Idomeni: Questions but no answers
In the coastal Turkish town of Dikili, hundreds demonstrated against the prospect of hosting people expelled from the nearby Greek islands, especially Chios and Lesbos, where there were more than 5,000 refugees on Saturday morning.
Turkey is due to receive the first batch of returned refugees and asylum seekers on Monday. A plan to build a reception centre in Dikili is unpopular with locals.
“We definitely don’t want a refugee camp in Dikili,” said the town’s mayor, Mustafa Tosun.
Demonstrators expressed concern over the effect the EU deal could have on the economy, tourism and security in their town.
The deal aims to break the lucrative smuggling operations that now operate out of Turkey.