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First Migrants Deported From Greece Back To Turkey

Greece sent a first wave of migrants back to Turkey on Monday under an EU deal that has faced heavy criticism from rights groups.

A small Turkish ferry, the Lesvos, and a larger catamaran, the Nezli Jale, left the island of Lesbos carrying 131 migrants, mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, said EU border agency Frontex, which is escorting them to Turkey.

“The procedure was very calm, everything was orderly,” Frontex spokeswoman Ewa Moncure told reporters at Lesbos harbour.

Turkish officials were present during the process, she added.

Another Turkish catamaran is transporting migrants from the neighbouring island of Chios. Officials have not yet confirmed how many people are on board.

A few dozen activists on Chios gathered near the embarkation site to protest the deportations, chanting “Freedom,” an AFP photographer said.

Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala has said his country was ready to receive 500 people Monday and that Greek authorities had provided 400 names, although these numbers could change.

Police sources on Lesbos, a Greek holiday island that has served as the gateway for hundreds of thousands of people coming from Turkey, said there had been a flurry of last-minute asylum applications.

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