Migrant deal between EU, Turkey begins

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The implementation of a refugee transfer deal between Turkey and the European Union began on Monday, with dozens of Syrians being resettled in Europe in exchange for repatriating others to Turkey.

The deal was confirmed on March 18 at a summit between Turkish and European leaders to regulate the flow of migrants from areas of conflict and poverty to Europe via Turkey. The goal was to stop or, at least, reduce irregular migrants who arrived by illegal means, and to encourage legal settlement.

Over 200 migrants, mostly Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals were transferred on three boats from the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea to Turkey’s western Izmir province early on Monday. From there, they will be transported on buses to a refugee camp in northwestern province of Kirklareli.

“According to government officials, they will be transferred to the refugee center. The place was previously used to settle flood refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some others will be sent to camps in southeast Turkey through Izmir,” said Zafer Afyon, president of the governing Justice and Development Party.

When migrants disembarked from boats at the port in the town of Dikili, they went through a health screening in a temporary shelter before being bused to the camps.

Izmir Governor Mustafa Toprak told media on Monday that ID checks and fingerprinting were rigorously done before allowing the migrants to leave the ships.

He emphasized that the re-admission deal is being implemented with great success.

The refugee transfer agreement requires Turkey to take back irregular migrants who transited through Turkey to Greece. In return, the EU has agreed to resettle Syrians to its member states although the cap was set at 72,000.

Brussels has also pledged to provide six billion euros in total to help offset some of the cost Turkey has shouldered in taking care of refugees.

Turkey is home to some three million refugees and has spent 10 billion U.S. dollars taking care of them. The Turkish opposition has criticized the government for agreeing to an unfair deal with the EU.

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