Europe migrant plan begins as boat leaves Greece

A scheme to return migrants from Greece to Turkey was put into operation Monday, a dpa report confirmed.

The first ship with 136 migrants on board left the Greek island of Lesbos at 6:28 am (0328 GMT). A second left Chios soon after that.

"On board the ship which left Lesbos there are 136 migrants. In the second ship, the one that left Chios, there are 66 migrants," Giorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for the government department dealing with the refugee crisis, told dpa.

There were only men on board the ships, and just two were Syrians who had volunteered to return to Turkey.

The remainder were migrants from Pakistan and north African countries who have no right to asylum, the spokesman added.

No further returns were expected on Monday, a police spokeswoman said. "First the registered asylum applications must be dealt with," she told reporters on Lesbos.

She said to do this extra asylum experts from other EU countries were needed.

Under a deal struck between the EU and Turkey last month, migrants who arrived in Greece after March 20 who do not apply for asylum or fail to qualify will be returned to Turkey.

For every migrant sent back to Turkey, one Syrian refugee will be directly taken from Turkey and resettled in Europe.

There were no reports of disturbances on Monday.

Buses took dozens of migrants to the harbour on Lesbos, Greek television showed, accompanied by police.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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