How will the return of asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey work?

Athens and Ankara are preparing for the large-scale return of asylum seekers from the Greek islands to Turkey under a deal the country struck with the European Union. In return, Syrian refugees will be directly taken from Turkey and resettled in Europe.

The mechanism is due to start on Monday. But details are still being finalized.

This is what we know so far:

Question: What is currently happening to migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the Greek islands from Turkey?

Answer: Greece is already returning to Turkey economic migrants - people from countries whose citizens are not generally deemed to be in need of international protection - under a recently revived deportation agreement between Athens and Ankara.

People who reached the Greek islands after March 20 and fail to qualify for asylum will also be returned to Turkey. Their asylum claims must first be individually processed, however. The rate of arrivals slowed after the EU-Turkey deal was agreed last month, but this could also be due to weather conditions.

Q: On what basis would Greece reject the asylum claims of Syrian refugees or others in need of protection?

A: The Greek parliament is voting Friday on a law that would effectively recognize Turkey as a safe country that protects refugees in line with international standards. This means that anyone who has crossed Turkey to reach Greece should have filed their asylum request there instead, making their application in Greece inadmissible.

Q: And does Turkey grant the required levels of protection?

A: According to the commission in Brussels, Turkey must still implement legal changes to improve the protection it grants asylum seekers and has pledged to do so by Monday. It says that Ankara must apply the principle of non-refoulement - not sending refugees back to countries where they are at risk - and ensure sufficient protection for all genuine refugees returned from Greece.

Q: So what happens next with the failed asylum seekers in Greece?

A: These people are to be sent back to Turkey starting Monday, but the details are still being worked out. The aim is to return them directly from the islands, a commission spokeswoman said Friday.

According to sources in the Greek coast guard, the Turkish coastal towns of Cesme and Dikili have been chosen to receive the first returnees. The towns are located across from the Greek islands Chios and Lesbos, where thousands of migrants have gathered.

Several hundred people are expected to be returned to Turkey on Monday, according to a German Interior Ministry spokesman. The commission has refused to confirm any numbers.

It is unclear what arrangements are in place for Turkey to host the overall 72,000 aslyum seekers due to be sent back, but there are reports that Turkey is planning to build camps to receive them. The country is accomodating to more than 2 million Syrian refugees.

Q: How will Greece process all the asylum claims and returns?

A: Greece is receiving support from other EU member states, via the EU border agency Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

By Friday, member states had pledged 700 police officers to escort returnees and 44 readmission experts to help Frontex, while EASO had received offers for an overall 452 asylum officers, interpreters and judges, the commission said. These deployments are to start over the weekend. They will join other Frontex and EASO staff already active in Greece.

The pledges to date cover half the overall staffing requested by Frontex and EASO to implement the refugee return programme, while Greece is due to supply a further 1,500 personnel.

Q: When will Syrian refugees start being resettled out of Turkey to the EU?

This is to start at the same time as Turkey begins taking back asylum seekers from Greece. The commission would not say Friday how many Syrians would initially be resettled, nor where. But Germany is preparing to receive a "low to medium double-digit" contingent on Monday, the interior ministry spokesman said.

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

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