The first boats of refugees and migrants have arrived back in Turkey from Greece, as part of a new — and controversial — deal between Turkey and the European Union that takes effect today. It is aimed at stopping the flood of people seeking asylum in Europe.
Under the deal, every migrant who reaches Greece illegally from Turkey after March 20 will be returned to Turkey, unless they qualify for asylum. However, for every Syrian turned back, a Syrian refugee who has been vetted is to be resettled from Turkey in an EU country.
Of those aboard the ferries, 200 were from Pakistan and only 2 were from Syria, and Joanna Kakissis, an NPR correspondent reporting from Lesbos, says it's unclear what happens to people sent back, who are not from Syria.
“There are no safeguards in place for people who need to claim asylum who are from Pakistan who are perhaps in political asylum or who are from Iraq or are from some other war-torn country,” Kakissis said.
The Greeks do not have the resources right now and so they’re not sure how to shelter everybody.Joanna Kakissis
Greece Not Equipped
Refugees who arrived in Greece before March 20 face a difficult future. They are essentially stuck in Greece which, according to Kakissis, has inadequate resources to care for the numerous refugees currently residing there.
“There are anywhere between 50,000 and 52,000 people who are currently in the country and are trapped here," Kakissis said. "Some are in various army camps that have been very hastily built here in the last couple of months. About 11,000 to 12,000 are in a horrible makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border, living in terrible conditions. The Greeks do not have the resources right now and so they’re not sure how to shelter everybody."
Kakissis adds the EU has been slow to send aid to help Greece deal with housing refugees and processing asylum requests.
There has been a reported drop in the number of refugees traveling to the island, but it is unclear how long that will last. Kakissis said that when talking to refugees, they tell relatives in their home countries not to come.
"They Will Find Other Routes"
As the first group of refugees arrived in Turkey today, some are expressing concerns over how these refugees will be treated. Michele Telaro, field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, says Turkey also is unable to properly shelter and care for the refugees and migrants.
“Our main concern is about the conditions they will find in Turkey, and if Turkey is ready to give assistance to the people and offer international protections,” Telaro said.
Telaro says migrants and refugees will still keep coming into Europe, if not by way of Greece, then through North Africa.
"If this border will really become closed, they will find other routes," he said. "it is a much more dangerous route. There will be much more people dying in the sea."
This segment aired on April 4, 2016.