First migrants arrive in Turkey from Greece under EU plan

European Commission welcomes ‘logical’ system as human rights bodies critical

 Syrian refugees arrive at Hannover Airport in  Germany on Monday under the controversial “one for one” plan. Photograph: Holger Hollemann/EPA

Syrian refugees arrive at Hannover Airport in Germany on Monday under the controversial “one for one” plan. Photograph: Holger Hollemann/EPA


The European Commission has welcomed the new refugee deal between the European Union and Turkey as a “more transparent, more organised and more logical” system for dealing with refugee flows as the first migrants arrived in Turkey under the controversial plan.

Three boats carrying more than 200 people arrived from Greek islands to the Turkish town of Dikili on Monday under the fledgling programme agreed at an EU summit on March 18th.

Meanwhile, 32 Syrian refugees arrived in Germany from Turkey and 11 in Finland under the plan.

In total 32 people – mostly families with young children – arrived on two commercial flights at Hannover Airport on Monday morning. They were brought to a reception centre near the western city of Göttingen and will be distributed in the coming weeks among German federal states.

More refugees are expected to arrive in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

Under the landmark plan all refugees arriving in Greece, regardless of whether they have applied for asylum, will be returned to Turkey; in exchange the EU will resettle Syrian refugees directly from Turkey.

But human rights organisations criticised the plan, which they claim will do little to help the plight of migrants.

Amnesty International, which has called the deal “a historic blow to human rights”, is to send a delegation to the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios this week to monitor the implementation of the deal.

Flee conflict

Sara TesorieriEurope

“People who have been forced to flee conflict, disaster and poverty are being treated in ways contrary to the spirit of international law and the moral authority Europe once had,” she said.

Twenty-one of the EU’s 28 member states have pledged more than 7,000 police officers to help with the refugee effort in Greece, EU officials said. While 206 Frontex officers have been deployed to Greece, an additional 50 are due there by the end of the week.

Ireland has pledged to send five immigration experts to the Greek islands, while it is considering a request to contribute border guards to Frontex, the EU’s border management body.

Relocation scheme

Meanwhile, the European Commission said that Austria’s move to reinforce border controls on its border with northern Italy over the weekend lies within EU rules.

“There are conditions under which border controls can be introduced between two Schengen member states and as long as these conditions are respected these can be done within Schengen,” a commission spokesman said on Monday.

As the EU’s free-travel system continues to buckle under pressure from the refugee crisis, the commission is due to unveil an overhaul of the Dublin system which underpins the EU’s asylum policy on Wednesday.

The commission has admitted that the system, which obliges refugees to apply for asylum in the country where they first arrive, has been thrown into jeopardy as some member states have opened their borders to asylum seekers who have arrived to the EU via other Schengen countries.

Having already postponed the planned revision of Dublin, the commission is expected to publish a range of possible options before coming forward with a more formal proposal later in the year.