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    European Commission: EU-Turkey agreement on track

    Since the agreement took effect on 20 March, a total of 6164 migrants have arrived in Greece. This reports the European Commission in a Fact Sheet today (4 April) on the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement.

    4 April 2016 was set as the target date for the start of returns of people arriving in Greece after 20 March and of the first resettlements from Turkey to EU countries. On 20 March the number of illegal migrants to Greece was still significant (1667) but in recent days the number has been reduced to 300 – 500 per day.

    EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey agreed on 18 March to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU and replace it instead with legal channels of resettlement of refugees to the European Union.

    The Commission writes that the implementation of the agreement requires huge operational efforts from all involved, and most of all from Greece. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had said that “this is a Herculean task”.

    Greece and Turkey are the two governments in charge of implementing the agreement and whose authorities have to do the legal and operational work.

    The Commission is assisting Greece with advice, expertise and support from the EU budget and by coordinating – via the EU Coordinator Maarten Verwey – the support which is being provided by other Member States and EU agencies.

    The Commission reports now that “significant first steps in the implementation of the agreement are being taken”.

    This morning (4 April), 32 Syrian refugees were resettled to Germany and 11 to Finland. A group of Syrian refugees are expected to leave for the Netherlands tomorrow morning. The return of a number of migrants who have not made asylum applications in Greece has been carried out during the morning from the Greek islands to Turkey, in full respect of EU and international law.

    On Monday (4 April) 202 migrants were deported from Greece to Turkey under the watch of officers from the European border agency, Frontex. According to International New York Times (5 April), Turkish officials  would not say to where in Turkey they were transported.

    According to the Commission, Greece has among others moved all migrants who arrived on the islands before 20 March to the mainland. It has also returned to Turkey 147 irregular migrants not in need of international protection, who had arrived before 20 March.

    As regards Turkey, the Commission reports that Turkey deployed liaison officers in Greece. It has announced that all Syrian refugees returned to Turkey from the Greek islands will see their protection status in Turkey granted or renewed. Legislative changes to that effect have been prepared.

    EU agencies such as Frontex and the European Asylum Support office (EASO) are in the process of deploying staff to Greece. However, the actual number of deployed staff falls below the need and number of pledged personnel by member states.

    The total number needed in Greece is estimated to around 4,000 staff and they will come from Greece, Member States, EASO and Frontex (asylum case handlers, asylum experts, interpreters, readmission officers, police officers and security staff).

    The costs of the practical implementation of the agreement are estimated to be around €280 million euro over the next six months.

    The Commission assures that people who apply for asylum in Greece will have their applications treated on a case-by-case basis, in line with EU and international law requirements and the principle of non-refoulement. “There will be individual interviews, individual assessments and rights of appeal. There will be no blanket and no automatic returns of asylum seekers.”

    The Brussels Times (Source: The European Commission)