Despite refugee deal only 189 migrants were returned to Turkey in 2019: report

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An irregular migrant is being brought to the coast after search and rescue operations, launched by coast guard members after a boat, carrying irregular migrants reportedly sank in the Aegean Sea, on November 12, 2018 in İzmir’'s Dikili district, Turkey. AFP PHOTOS

Despite a 2016 refugee agreement between the European Union and Turkey, only 189 irregular migrants who crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece were returned to Turkey in 2019, according to new EU figures, Deutsche Welle English service reported.

That figure is minuscule compared with the approximately 60,100 refugees who landed in Greece in 2019, a sharp rise from the year before.

The EU-Turkey migrant deal was implemented to stop “irregular migration via Turkey to Europe” and “break the business model of the smugglers and to offer migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk.”

Under the agreement, Turkey is obligated to take back irregular Syrian migrants who pass through its territory to prevent them from crossing into Greece. For every irregular returned to Turkey, another Syrian approved for asylum in the EU will be resettled in one of the 28 states.

Turkey has also received a total of €6 billion ($6.6 billion) in funding, €3 billion in 2016 and €3 billion in 2018.

According to a European Commission report seen by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, a total of 1,995 Syrian asylum-seekers were returned to Turkey from 2016 to 2019 — 801 in 2016, 683 in 2017, 332 in 2018 and 189 in 2019. Meanwhile, during the same period, the EU has resettled 25,660 Syrians coming via Turkey.

The European Commission report said that of the 60,100 asylum-seekers who landed on Greek islands in 2019, around 37,700 were transferred to the mainland.

The large number of migrant arrivals on Greece’s Aegean islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros has put extreme pressure on overloaded refugee camps. Around 42,000 people reside in these camps, and there is a shortage of food, clothing and medicine.

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