From top: People at Moria detention centre in Lesbos; acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Brussels for a meeting between Turkey and the EU heads of government on March 7
Further to the EU/Turkey deal…
On Tuesday, journalist Oscar Webb, from Lesbos island, reported:
Up to 190 shipping containers are on their way to Lesvos, Samos and Chios, to be used as offices by 600 EU asylum officials and 430 interpreters. According to the terms of the deal between the EU and Turkey that came into effect on 20 March, ‘all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands … will be returned to Turkey’.
Sixty judges will preside over appeals committees – also to take place in containers – for people who do not immediately accept deportation orders. And 2500 police, security and army personnel from Greece and other EU states, with eight ships and thirty coaches, will enforce the deportations. Until the material and manpower arrive, the refugees and asylum seekers are waiting in detention camps on the islands.
On Lesvos, close to a thousand refugees – the unlucky ones who arrived, in some cases only by minutes, after the 20 March deadline – have been placed in the island’s only detention centre, near the village of Moria.
They were met at sea and on the beaches by police who took their photos, gave them numbered wristbands, issued them with arrest papers (‘you have been legally arrested … currently you are being held here legally and temporarily … please be patient’) and took them to the camp. More arrive almost every day.
Conditions are bad in the Moria camp. The Greek authorities are struggling to look after the detainees without the help of charities and volunteers. Last week, the UNHCR, Médicins sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council all said they were pulling out.
Further to this…
The Department of Justice released a statement earlier this morning, saying:
Ireland will shortly be sending three international protection case work experts to the Greek Islands. The experts will come from the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).
Ireland will also be offering the services of two members of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal to support the establishment of Appeals Committees. This is also being coordinated by EASO [European Asylum Support Office].
The agreement requires that the return of irregular migrants to Turkey will take place in full accordance with EU and international law. Furthermore, all migrants must be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement.
This contribution will be on top of the four Irish experts sent earlier this year from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to Greece and Italy to support the relocation of asylum seekers under the EU Relocation Programme.
Ireland is also considering a request from Frontex to EU Member States for the deployment of border Guards to assist in the return of people from Greece to Turkey in compliance with international law. There are some limitations on what Ireland can do, given it is not a member of Frontex, but it would like to help where it can.
Meanwhile, Hannah Lucinda Smith, in The Times reports:
Turkish border forces are shooting refugees dead as they flee the civil war in Syria, The Times has learnt.
Sixteen migrants, including three children, were killed by guards as they crossed into Turkey over the past four months, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organisation.
An officer in the British-backed Free Syrian Police and a Syrian smuggler living in Turkey said that the true number was higher.
The deaths cast further doubt on an EU migrant deal struck 11 days ago. It classes Turkey as a “safe third country”, meaning refugees can be returned there without fear of persecution.
Previously: ‘Can Ireland Not Do Any More?’
Top pic: Oscar Webb