VIDEO: More Refugees Arrive to Greek Island despite EU-Turkey Deal

Mon Mar 21, 2016 20:42:29

Greek coast guard officials rescued migrants off Lesbos island on Monday (March 21) coming from Turkish shores.

The day after the formal start of an agreement intended to close off the main route through which a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe last year, authorities said on Monday (March 21) that 1,662 people had arrived on Greek islands by 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), twice the official count of the day before.

Just after 4:30 a.m., one coast guard vessel rescued 54 refugees and migrants from the open sea and brought them to the port, some of the 698 arrivals counted in Lesbos.

They staggered down the ramp, women and children first, in the darkness before dawn, one elderly man bundled up in blankets.

The arrivals were directed to a coast guard bus that would drive them to the Moria "hot spot", a center where new arrivals are being registered and their asylum applications processed.

"We are very tired. I want to go to my family in Sweden," said Ahmet Bayraktar, a 32-year-old unemployed accountant from Aleppo, Syria. "We'll try, God willing."

Like others, he was unaware of the accord, which means new arrivals will now be kept in confinement while their asylum bids are fast-tracked. If their applications fail, they will be sent back to Turkey.

On March 20, the day the deal came into effect, more migrants arrived on smugglers boats to the island.

"We want to go to Sweden. Everybody want to go to Germany, some people to Germany, some people to Sweden, we don't heard the news. We don't have electricity, we don't have food, we don't have anything there," said Bayraktar.

Two hours later, just as the sun rose above the Aegean Sea, the same coast guard vessel pulled another 44 people from the water, many of them escaping conflict in Congo and Sierra Leone. One woman cradled a baby just a few months old.

They walked silently to the bus for Moria, a sprawling, gated complex of prefabricated containers and hard tents.

Before Friday's deal was reached, migrants and refugees were free to wander out of the camp and head to ferries to the mainland. Now, they will be held there until their asylum applications are processed and those who are not deemed eligible will be sent back to Turkey, starting on April 4.

The latest government figures showed on Monday that some 50,000 people are now trapped in Greece, Reuters reported.


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