First migrant returns arrive in Turkey from Greece

The first migrants to be returned to Turkey under a deal with the EU arrived from the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday morning.

An Anadolu Agency correspondent on the Greek island a few kilometers from the northwest Turkish coast said 136 people were taken from Moria camp in Greece by bus. They were accompanied by officials from Frontex, the EU border agency, to a nearby port and ushered onto two ferries.

A Frontex official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the migrants were mostly from Pakistan.

They arrived a short time later in Dikili, where preparations, including heightened security and setting up medical screening facilities have been underway to receive the migrants. Buses later took them, plus a second group of asylum seekers from Chios island, to a repatriation center in northwestern Kirklareli province. Over 200 people in total were en route to Kirklareli.

Pehlivankoy Repatriation Center, which opened last Friday, has a capacity of 750 people, Kirklareli Governor Esengul Civelek told Anadolu Agency Monday.

''The center has a range of social facilities, including a dining hall, television rooms, playgrounds, classrooms, sports fields, hair salons, and a prayer room," Civelek said.

Moria detention center in Greece houses around 1,600 migrants while around 2,500 others are waiting on other Greek islands to be returned to Turkey.

Meanwhile, a group of Syrian refugees were sent to the German city of Hanover from Istanbul under the new EU-Turkey arrangement, an Anadolu Agency correspondent at Istanbul Ataturk Airport reported on Monday.

Almost 40 people, including babies and young children, were put on a plane to Hanover after passport checks at the airport.

EU Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday had seen "the start of two processes" where the Aegean route was dangerous for migrants and how the EU "lives up to its responsibilities".

Schinas said the aim was to "replace disorganized, chaotic, irregular and dangerous migratory flows by organized, safe and legal pathways to Europe for those entitled to international protection in line with EU and international law," he said.

The EU Commission says just over 6,000 refugees crossed the sea from Turkey to Greece during the period between March 20 and April 3.

Earlier on Sunday evening, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the EU-Turkey refugee deal over the phone, according to Turkey's Prime Ministry sources.

Merkel also offered condolences to Davutoglu over recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, adding that Germany remains in solidarity with Turkey in its fight against terrorism, the sources added.

Under an agreement between Turkey and the EU, "irregular migrants" will be returned to Turkey from Greece in a one-for-one exchange for refugees in Turkish camps.

Around 2.7 million Syrians who have fled the civil war in their country are being sheltered in Turkish camps.

The deal is designed to break people-smuggling gangs who have been trafficking refugees across the Aegean Sea, resulting in hundreds of deaths, according to EU and Turkish officials

Source: Anadolu Agency