As part of the readmission agreement made between the European Union and Turkey, the first group of 202 Syrian refugees were sent from Lesbos and Chios to the Turkish coastal town of Dikili early Monday. However, Greek officials said that they have halted deportations after 3,000 refugees applied for asylum in Greece. As a result of the overwhelming number of applicants, the EU sent in officials to review applications with the Greek authorities on Thursday.
With Greek officials indicating that the process could be finalized within 48 hours, Stelyo Berberakis, Daily Sabah's Athens correspondent, said that the process will take approximately 20 days. Commenting on whether the Turkey-EU deal has been affected by the recent development on the Greek side, Berberakis stated that it will not be affected, adding that Turkey will uphold the agreement. Echoing Berberakis's statements, Enes Bayraklı, a foreign affairs specialist at the Political, Economic and Social Research Foundation (SETA), told Daily Sabah on Thursday that the Turkey-EU deal will not be affected, further noting that the EU failed to establish a mechanism prior to actualizing operations.
Under the refugee deal made between Turkey and the EU, for every Syrian sent back from Greece to Turkey the EU will resettle one Syrian in a member-state country. The idea is to reduce the incentive for Syrian refugees to board boats in attempts to make the risky trip across the sea to Greece, encouraging them instead to stay in Turkish refugee camps to get a chance for resettlement in Europe. Those seeking asylum in Greece will stay there while applcations are considered by Greek and European officials.
Speaking to Daily Sabah on Thursday, Berberakis provided details on the reasoning behind Greek's halting of Syrian refugee deportations, saying that Greece is unable to find any migrants to deport as the migrants wish to stay in Europe. "The Greek authorities are unable to find any refugees to deport to Turkey because the refugees do not want to leave to Turkey. Thus, of the 3,100 refugees who have applied, 3,000 of those applied for asylum and, as part of the Geneva human rights' laws, all applications are subject to review," he added. Underlining that the process could take up to 20 days, Berberakis said that despite the refugees' aim to apply for asylum in Germany, they have applied for asylum in Greece in efforts to avoid leaving Turkey.
During the review process of the applications of asylum seekers by both the EU and Greek officials, Berberakis stated that there is a possible transfer from Greece to Turkey that is planned for Friday. The major part of the deal made between Turkey and the EU depended on the management of refugees in the re-admission agreement; however, with the stalling of the deportations, various rumors have surfaced about the deal being broken off.
Responding to such claims, EU and foreign policy expert Bayraklı stressed that the halting of deportations by Greek authorities will not affect the Turkey-EU deal, further noting that Greece also took this action after the EU's failure to provide the major aid that was promised to Greece. Continuing on with his remarks, Bayraklı said that the latest development had also occurred due to the EU failing to establish an operative mechanism. However, he also stated that while the deal may not be effective, it may also face delays. Similary to Bayraklı's remarks, Berberakis also stressed that the Turkey-EU deal will not be affected because Turkey has done its part of the agreement, resulting in a major decrease of illegal migration through the Aegean Sea.