Greece asks for EU help on migrant plan

  • 22/03/2016

Greece has appealed to its EU partners for logistical help to implement a deal with Turkey aimed at stemming the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe as people, many unaware of the tough new rules, continue to come ashore on the Greek islands.

Economically battered Greece, for months at the epicentre of Europe's biggest migrant crisis since World War Two, is struggling to mount the massive logistics operation needed to process asylum applications from the many hundreds of migrants still arriving daily along its porous shoreline.

Turkish officials arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday to help implement the deal, which requires new arrivals from March 20 to be held until their asylum applications are processed and for those deemed ineligible to be sent back to Turkey from April 4 onwards.

"We must move very swiftly and in a coordinated manner over the next few days to get the best possible result," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said after meeting EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in Athens.

"Assistance in human resources must come quickly."

Under the EU-Turkey roadmap agreed last Friday a coordination structure must be created by March 25 and some 4000 personnel -- more than half from other European Union member states -- deployed to the islands by next week.

However, on Monday, the day after the formal start of an agreement intended to close off the main route through which a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe last year, authorities said 1662 people had arrived on Greek islands by 7am (6pm NZ time), twice the official count of the day before.

Before Friday's deal, migrants and refugees had been free to wander out of the camp and head to ferries to the Greek mainland, from where they would mostly head north through the Balkans towards wealthier western Europe, especially Germany.

Now, new arrivals are supposed to be held in centres pending the outcome of their asylum applications.

Under the deal, for every Syrian returned to Turkey, another would be resettled from Turkey to the EU, a process which has already triggered alarm from human rights groups for being discriminatory, a violation of international law and one which could be challenged in court.

The fate of those migrants and refugees stranded in Greece before the accord was brokered, estimated at nearly 47,000 people, remains unclear.