It remains to be seen when – and if – Friday’s deal clinched between Brussels and Ankara will permanently stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving on the Greek islands.
Nearly 900 migrants crossed the Aegean Sea to Greek islands on Sunday, as the deal between the European Union and Turkey went into force, according to the country’s migration officials. The refugees told officials they were aware of the agreement but intended to try to enter the European Union and seek asylum nevertheless.
About 1,500 people had already arrived on Friday, more than double the day before, putting even greater pressure on the debt-hit nation.
Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman with Greek’s migration department, told the Agence France Presse news agency that the country needs more time to handle the registrations and deportations. “A plan like this cannot be put in place in only 24 hours,” he said.
Under the agreement reached between E.U. and Turkish leaders, from Sunday all migrants and refugees reaching the Greek islands are to be deported back to Turkey after they are registered, and for every Syrian returned, the European Union will resettle one from a Turkish refugee camp, with up to 72,00 refugees to be divided up among the E.U. member states.
The deportations are planned to take effect from April 4, when Greece is expected to have a fast-track process for assessing asylum claims in place.
With the deal, the European Union aims to block a main route used by migrants from Syrian and other war-torn countries in the Middle East to enter Europe and discourage people smugglers.