Turkey says next migrant transfer delayed, blames Greece
The next transfer of migrants to Turkey from Greece under a controversial deal with the EU has been postponed until later this week at Athens’ request, a Turkish official said Tuesday.
“It has been postponed to Friday” from Wednesday, the official told AFP, asking not to be named.
“Greece could not send the people. Everything is ready here but we received a message from the Greek side,” added the official.
The official did not give further details but the Greek government had admitted earlier the procedure had been slowed by an increase in asylum requests by migrants on the islands of Chios and Lesbos.
A local official in the Turkish region of Izmir had said earlier a new wave of around 200 migrants would be shipped from Lesbos into the Turkish harbour town of Dikili on the Aegean sea on Wednesday morning.
The first transfer of over 200 migrants from Greece took place on Monday, under the deal agreed between the EU and Turkey aimed at quelling the bloc’s worst migration crisis since World War II.
But in Athens, a Greek government source denied that a date for the next transfer had ever been set.
“We don’t plan in advance the date or number of those being sent back,” the source told AFP, emphasising that the Greek government had to assess asylum applications by migrants.
“If by the end of the week, there is a satisfactory number of people who have not demanded asylum and which justifies a return, we will see if there will be a new transfer.”
Under the pact with the European Union, Turkey has agreed to take back migrants who arrived in Greece in illegal crossings of the Aegean Sea after March 20.
Out of around 6,000 migrants who arrived on the islands after that deadline, more than 2,300 had applied for asylum, said Yiorgos Kyritsis, the spokesman for the Greek government panel coordinating the migration crisis
The deal has caused huge controversy, with rights groups including Amnesty International claiming Turkey could not be considered a “safe country” for the return of refugees.
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