Two migrants have been found dead on a boat that arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos, on the first day of the implementation of an agreement between the EU and Turkey on handling the new arrivals.
Medical personnel performed CPR on the two men but failed to revive them.
The locals are starting to fear what the migrants will do when they run out of moneyGreek mayor Christos Goudenoudis
The overcrowded boat was carrying dozens of migrants from nearby Turkey yesterday, the first day for the implementation of the migration agreement between the EU and Turkey. It stipulates how the new arrivals from Turkey will be processed and returned.
Some 2,500 migrants currently on Lesbos and other islands are being taken to mainland Greece where they are placed in shelters before EU-wide relocation.
Greece is expecting 2,300 European experts, including migration officers and translators, to help implement the deal, but none has arrived yet.
Instead, 875 new refugees landed on four of Greece’s Aegean islands close to the Turkish coast.
The EU-Turkey plan aims to halt smuggling by sending migrants who come to Greece and do not qualify for asylum back to Turkey in exchange for European nations taking refugees directly from Turkey.
Turkey is also required to step up efforts to crack down on illegal migration.
The deal puts Ankara on the fast track to get $6.6 billion (£4.5bn) in aid to deal with refugees on its territory, unprecedented visa concessions for Turks to visit Europe and a re-energizing of its EU membership bid.
Turkey, which is already hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees, has been a primary departure point for Europe, while Greece has borne the brunt of arrivals. More than one million migrants arrived in Europe over the past year.
A Turkish news agency reported yesterday that 320 would-be migrants to Greece had been intercepted in a coastal town.
The private Dogan agency said the migrants were caught in the town of Dikili, a main crossing point to the Greek island of Lesbos.
Amid all this, Greece is still relocating migrants from its islands to temporary refugee camps on the mainland. A ferry carrying 1,169 migrants arrived yesterday at the port of Elefsina, west of Athens. Another ferry carrying some 1,300 migrants was on its way to Elefsina from Lesbos.
The arriving refugees were taken to buses heading to temporary camps in northern Greece.
On the Greek border town of Idomeni, where about 10,000 migrants who were refused entry into Macedonia are stranded, the mayor criticised plans to make the sprawling, muddy, makeshift encampment permanent.
“[The government] asked us to bring sleeping cars through Hellenic Railways, approximately seven or eight cars to accommodate refugees. That’s not the solution. I think the [camp] should be evacuated,” said Christos Goudenoudis, mayor of Peonia.
“The locals are starting to fear what the migrants will do when they run out of money,” Goudenoudis said.
Refugees started piling up in Greece after Austria and countries further north started closing their borders to them.
Meanwhile Pope Francis in his Palm Sunday homily decried what he called indifference to the refugees flooding into Europe, making a comparison to authorities who washed their hands of Jesus’ fate ahead of his crucifixion.