Turkey's parliament approves agreement to repatriate Pakistani migrants

Published April 8, 2016
A Pakistani migrant looks back as he gets on a ferry for Turkey in the port of Mytilini of the Greek island of Lesbos, Friday, April 8, 2016.— AP
A Pakistani migrant looks back as he gets on a ferry for Turkey in the port of Mytilini of the Greek island of Lesbos, Friday, April 8, 2016.— AP

ANKARA/DIKILI: Turkey's parliament approved overnight an agreement enabling Ankara to repatriate Pakistani migrants, as people continue to be sent to Turkey from Greece as part of a European Union (EU) deal to stem mass migration to Europe.

Pakistani migrants are among those that have already been sent back to Turkey under the deal.

A ferry carrying 45 Pakistani migrants returned to Turkey from the Greek island of Lesbos on Friday ─ the second round of arrivals under the EU deal with Ankara to stem mass migration to Europe across the Aegean Sea.

Turkish Interior Ministry employees check documents of a Pakistani migrant wrapped with a blanket before getting on a ferry for Turkey in the port of Mytilini of the Greek island of Lesbos, Friday, April 8, 2016.-AP
Turkish Interior Ministry employees check documents of a Pakistani migrant wrapped with a blanket before getting on a ferry for Turkey in the port of Mytilini of the Greek island of Lesbos, Friday, April 8, 2016.-AP

The accord, which came into force on Monday, aims to help end a chaotic influx into the EU of migrants and refugees, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, after the arrival of over a million last year.

Nearly 250 people have been sent back from the Greek islands under the new accord.

Another boat carrying a larger group of migrants was due to leave Lesbos later in the morning, Greek state TV reported. Those who left early on Friday were from Pakistan, it said.

Read: EU complains about difficulties in deporting migrants to Pakistan

Around two dozen uniformed Turkish police officers lined the boarding plank of the ferry after it docked in the Turkish town of Dikili, accompanied by two Turkish coast guard vessels.

All Pakistanis on board were men, a Turkish official said.

Turkish Interior Ministry employees check documents of a Pakistani migrant wrapped with a blanket beforegetting on a ferry for Turkey in the port of Mytilini of the Greek island of Lesbos, Friday, April 8, 2016.-AP
Turkish Interior Ministry employees check documents of a Pakistani migrant wrapped with a blanket beforegetting on a ferry for Turkey in the port of Mytilini of the Greek island of Lesbos, Friday, April 8, 2016.-AP

Before the boat departed from Lesbos, at least two rights activists plunged into the water close to the small ferry, dangling from the heavy chain of the anchor and flashing the 'v' for victory sign in an attempt to prevent the vessel from sailing from the port of Mytilene back to Turkey. They were plucked from the water by the Greek coastguard.

Activists say the EU-Turkey deal runs roughshod over human rights, and they stood at the gates of the port blowing whistles and banging on metal barriers in protest.

Pakistan was one of the top five countries of origin among the one million migrants who arrived in Europe last year, although most are considered economic migrants rather than refugees from conflict.

A first group of 202 migrants, most from Pakistan and Afghanistan, were sent back to Turkey on Monday.

Greek authorities said 149 migrants had arrived in the past 24 hours on three Greek islands: Lesbos, Samos and Chios, up from 76 the previous day.

Under the EU-Turkey agreement, Ankara will take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who enter Greece through irregular routes in return for the EU taking in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and rewarding it with more money, early visa-free travel for its citizens and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

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