The return to Turkey of what are called ‘irregular migrants’ has actually been going on for some weeks, covertly, though now with the EU-Turkey deal agreed this practice is being done openly with hundreds of ‘irregulars’ expected to be returned not by boat but by plane, in some cases direct from the Greek islands. To date, it has been revealed that more than 600 ‘irregulars’ have been returned via one means or another. The latest ‘batch’ are to be supervised by Dutch police. Meanwhile, was Turkey’s warning to Brussels ahead of last week’s bombing part of a pattern – in which case, which country will the Erdogan government warn next…?
(Note: video above is of today’s statement by refugees at Idomeni – the Greek-Macedonia/FYROM border crossing – who are refusing to leave unless they can be suitably relocated.)
On Monday both the Moria ‘reception centre’ site on Lesvos and the Vial centre on Chios became closed facilities – i.e. they are now detention centres. On Wednesday fifty Dutch police arrived at Mytilene airport, Lesvos, to assist in the ‘transfer’ of ‘irregular migrants’, who are being transported from the island to Izmir (see photo below).
In Epaneisdochi, a total of 76 ‘irregulars’ were held yesterday (Thursday) at the border crossing of Kipi. 65 ‘irregulars’ were immediately handed to the Turkish authorities. 40 are believed to have originated from Pakistan, 11 from Bangladesh, 6 from Morocco, 7 from Algeria and 1 from Tunisia. The remaining 11 were Turkish nationals.
According to the Greek Police, since the beginning of this year the number of ‘irregulars’ who were returned to Turkey is 673: 226 from Pakistan, 31 from Bangladesh, 268 from Morocco, 144 from Algeria, 4 from Tunisia and the remainder Turkish nationals.
Last Saturday, only one day after the EU-Turkey deal was signed, around 30 Afghan refugees were secretly flown from Istanbul to Afghanistan. The Afghans had been trying to get to Greece, but were intercepted by the Turkish coastguard and detained in İzmir. According to Amnesty International, what happened to them was identical to the forced returns and other abuses documented by AI in a December 2015 report in which it was found that refugees and asylum-seekers were apprehended at the western border, detained without access to lawyers, and then forcibly returned to Syria and Iraq after being forced to sign “voluntary return” papers.
Here is a map showing all the centres where refugees are being held in Greece and the number of people held at each centre (as of 24 March).
Meanwhile, according to a leaked memo, Jordan’s King Abdullah accused Turkey’s President Erdogan of exporting terrorists to Europe. No hard evidence has emerged that this is the case, though it is interesting to note that Turkish intellligence has an excellent knowledge of so many terror suspects in advance. These included those responsible for the Brussels bombing, about which the Erdogan government had forewarned the Belgium Government. Indeed, it was only days before the bombing that Erdogan said: “There is no reason for the bomb, which exploded in Ankara, not to explode in Brussels, where an opportunity to show off in the heart of the city to supporters of the terror organization is presented, or in any city in Europe. Despite this clear reality, European countries are paying no attention, as if they are dancing in a minefield. You can never know when you are stepping on a mine”.
(Note: the leaked memo also confirmed that the British SAS have been deployed in Libya since the beginning of the year: the British Parliament was not informed of this and it is not yet known if Privy Council member Jeremy Corbyn was informed of this development either.).