BERLIN/ATHENS/ANKARA (Own report) – Massive international protests are accompanying the start of EU mass deportations of refugees to Turkey. The first 750 refugees are due to be transported from the Greek islands to the Turkish coast between today, Monday, and Wednesday. More than 5,400 are being detained on the islands in EU “hotspots” to prevent them from escaping subsequent deportation measures. Several UN agencies have publicly criticized the EU measures – largely enforced by the German government – as being in violation of international law. Clinging to these measures of mass deportation, Berlin and Brussels are heading toward an open conflict with the United Nations. In protest, international aid organizations have suspended their activities in these detention “hotspots,” refusing to become complicit in the EU’s scheme. Protest by refugees is escalating on the islands and mainland of Greece. The government in Athens is expecting massive resistance to these mass deportations. However, to ensure successful deportations, Berlin has dispatched German personnel – members of the Federal Police and of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) – to the Greek islands. For the German government, these, under international law illegal measures, are of strategic importance.
Today, Monday, the EU starts mass deportations of refugees from Greece to Turkey. According to reports, by Wednesday, at least 750 refugees will be deported by force from Greek islands such as Lesbos and Chios to the Turkish coast. The European Agency for the management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (Frontex) has chartered several Turkish ships for this purpose. Alone on Lesbos, 400 Frontex functionaries – including 30 German police officers – were expected to arrive over the weekend for the implementation of these measures violating international law. To break the expected resistance, each refugee will be escorted onto the boats by a police officer. Up to yesterday, over 6,100 people have been detained in overcrowded “hotspots” on the Greek islands, to prevent their escaping deportation. Turkey has installed “registration centers” to collect the personal data and fingerprints of the refugees. Therefore, they will have virtually no opportunity of ever obtaining asylum within the EU. Over the weekend, the first demonstrations, protesting against their expected arrival, have taken place in towns along the Turkish coast, were the refugees will arrive Monday. The refugees are as unwelcome in Turkey, as they are in the EU.
Over the past few days, the protests by the refugees themselves have continued to intensify. Since the beginning of last week, there have been practically daily outbursts of collective anger. Last Thursday, in Camp Moria on Lesbos, about 50 Afghans chanted “Azandi” (which means freedom in Farsi). On the Greek island of Chios, hundreds of refugees tore down a razor wire fence Friday and fled their detention “hotspot,” and marched together to the harbor. Even on the Greek mainland, protests are escalating. About 1,000 people, including many migrants and refugees, marched to the EU office in Athens Thursday, to protest against Brussels’ deportation deal with Ankara. In the north of the country, roads to Macedonia were blocked. “We expect violence,” warned on the weekend, a government spokesperson in Athens regarding the growing resistance to these illegal deportation measures. The refugees had narrowly escaped the war and are adamant in light of Berlin and the EU’s denial of protection, he admitted. “Desperate people” however “tend to resort to violence.”
German Deportation Personnel
German personnel are also participating in the mass deportation. Thirty officers of the Federal Police were expected to arrive in Lesbos on the weekend and by Monday eight employees of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). They are tasked to assist the Expeditious Asylum Procedures in the detention “hotspots,” so that Berlin and Brussels can lend a veneer of rule of law. The BAMF is planning to dispatch 100 officials to Greece to ensure the smoothest possible implementation of the deportation deal with Turkey. For the German government this deal is of strategic importance in view of permanently sealing off the EU against refugees. It is explicitly promoting this deal as a “European solution.”
Mass Deportation as Model
Yesterday, the German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière announced he would use the deportation deal with Ankara as a model for identical deals with North African countries.