Turkey on Edge as Migrants Return
When the first boatload of deported migrants arrived Monday at the Turkish port of Dikili, a small group of Turkish human rights activists turned up to welcome them.
Turkey is expecting to receive another shipment of 200 migrants deported from Greece on Friday, as part of the deal reached in March between the European Union and Ankara to alleviate Europe’s migrant crisis. But there is also nervousness among some Turks who question whether their country can and should absorb the refugees who do not return to their nations of origin.
The deportees from Pakistan and other countries who arrived in Turkey from Greece this week have been whisked away from the docks where they disembarked and taken to a reception and removal center in Kirklareli, 500 kilometers away.
The deal brings a list of incentives for Turkey, including billions of dollars in aid and the possibility of visa-free travel to Europe, as well as eventual accession to the EU. But some Turks condemn the deal, saying it does little to widen their long-sought access to Europe.
For Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the agreement is an opportunity to raise his standing at a time when he is under scrutiny for his government’s offensive against Kurdish separatists in Turkey’s southeast and its crackdown on the media.
This week, Erdogan criticized the European Union’s approach to the migration crisis.
“Did we turn Syrians back? No, we didn’t, but they [EU nations] did,” he said in Ankara. “By way of placing razor wire, they did not let these people into their countries. We see who is dying on the Aegean Sea, but the number of those rescued by us on the Aegean is 100,000.”
Officials say more than 400 people have died over the past year while trying to make the short, but dangerous, crossing between Turkey and the Greek isles.
Under the deal reached in mid-March, Turkey will receive more than $3 billion in aid to take care of the refugees. For every migrant returned, Turkey sends one Syrian refugee to the EU.
Greece and the EU are to deport all migrants who arrived on Greek soil after March 20. While Greece reports that between 300 and 500 people continue to turn up on its shores daily, that number reflects a considerable drop from before the agreement.
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