EU-Turkey Syrian refugee swap begins with 'mutual deportations'

EU-Turkey Syrian refugee swap begins with 'mutual deportations'
Video: A controversial EU-Turkey refugee deal took off on Monday as sixteen Syrians landed in Germany while a ship carrying dozens of migrants deported from Lesbos docked in Turkish port.
3 min read
04 April, 2016
The first group of Syrian refugees sent from Turkey arrived in Germany as the "one-in-one-out" part of the EU-Turkey deal aimed at curbing the migrant flow to Europe came into effect.

Sixteen refugees landed in the central German city of Hannover on Monday and were taken to accommodation in the region while another 16 are scheduled to arrive in the same city later on today.

Meanwhile, more than a hundred refugees from the Greek island of Lesbos have been transported on a vessel and taken to the Turkish port of Dikilli as part of the controversial deal.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency put the number of migrants at 131 identifying most as Pakistani nationals.

Authorities are expecting 202 migrants to return to Turkey on Monday, a Turkish government official added.

Ankara offered to take back all refugees who crossed into Europe from Turkey if the EU agrees to resettle one Syrian living in Turkey on its territory for every Syrian refugee Turkey takes back from Greece.

The EU-Turkey deal comes amid growing anti-immigration sentiment across Europe.

In Germany, the large influx of refugees sparked a xenophobic backlash from many far-right politicians and activists.

A total of 50,000 migrants and refugees had been stranded in Greece following EU and Balkan border closures.

A protester holds a banner reading 'Please keep fleeing! There is nothing to stay here! Refugees not welcome!' as police escort refugees after their arrival at the airport in Hanover [Getty]

Syrian refugees landing in Hanover airport were greeted with anti-refugee banners.

Meanwhile, the flow of migrants across dangerous Mediterranean waters, catalysed by people smugglers, continues, despite the official take-off of the EU-Turkey deal.

Greek coast guard vessels rescued on Monday two boats trying to reach Greece, carrying at least 50 migrants and refugees, including a woman on a wheelchair and children, Reuters reported.

"We are just going to try our chance," a Syrian Kurd from the Hasakah province said, "It is for our destiny. We are dead anyway."

When asked whether he was aware that the Greek authorities were sending people to Turkey, the 31-year old said "I heard maybe Iranians, Afghans. I didn't hear they were sending back Syrians to Turkey. At least I did what I could. I am alive. That's it."

A total of 50,000 migrants and refugees had been stranded in Greece following EU and Balkan border closures.

Last month's EU-Turkey deal, which came under immense criticism by the UN and rights groups, seeks to curb the mass influx of migrants heading for Europe.

Only those arriving after 20 March, when the agreement came into effect, will face deportation.

About 4,000 migrants and refugees detained on Greek islands will be effected.

Agencies contributed to this report.