A ferry carrying 45 Pakistani migrants returned to Turkey from the Greek island of Lesbos on Friday – the second round of arrivals under a European Union deal with Ankara to stem mass migration to Europe across the Aegean Sea.
The accord, which came into force on Monday, aims to help end a chaotic influx into the EU of migrants and refugees, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, after the arrival of over a million last year.
Nearly 250 people have been sent back from the Greek islands under the new accord..
Another boat carrying a larger group of migrants was due to leave Lesbos later in the morning, Greek state TV reported.
Those who left early on Friday were from Pakistan, it said. Around two dozen uniformed Turkish police officers lined the boarding plank of the ferry after it docked in the Turkish town of Dikili, accompanied by two Turkish coast guard vessels.
All Pakistanis on board were men, a Turkish official said.
Before the boat departed from Lesbos, at least two rights activists plunged into the water close to the small ferry, dangling from the heavy chain of the anchor and flashing the ‘v’ for victory sign in an attempt to prevent the vessel from sailing from the port of Mytilene back to Turkey. They were plucked from the water by the Greek coastguard.
Activists say the EU-Turkey deal runs roughshod over human rights, and they stood at the gates of the port blowing whistles and banging on metal barriers in protest.
A first group of 202 migrants, most from Pakistan and Afghanistan, were sent back to Turkey on Monday.
Turkey’s parliament approved overnight an agreement enabling Ankara to repatriate Pakistani migrants.
Greek authorities said 149 migrants had arrived in the past 24 hours on three Greek islands: Lesbos, Samos and Chios, up from 76 the previous day.
Under the EU-Turkey agreement, Ankara will take back all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who enter Greece through irregular routes in return for the EU taking in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and rewarding it with more money, early visa-free travel for its citizens and progress in its EU membership negotiations.