greece migrants refugees.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ARMANDO BABANI

The flow of migrants and refugees from Turkey to Greece is slowing, Greek authorities said Saturday, as they also announced details of people being returned to Turkey.

In the space of 24 hours, only 78 people crossed from the Turkish coast to Greece's eastern Aegean islands, the Greek refugee crisis committee said. On Friday, 161 people had arrived.

The crisis committee estimates there are 50,200 migrants in Greece, with just over one-fifth of them staying at the Idomeni camp at the Macedonian border.

The return of migrants to Turkey is set to begin on April 4, according to an EU-Turkey agreement. The deal stipulates that any migrants that illegally entered Greece after March 20 can be returned to Turkey.

Athens is set to receive badly needed asylum experts, translators and security forces to help process migrants in the coming days. However government sources say few of 2,300 helpers promised by the EU had arrived by Saturday.

Workers on the island of Lesbos have more than 2,600 cases yet to process, while 1,300 people are waiting on the island of Chios, the committee said. Meanwhile, 4,000 migrants have gathered at Piraeus, where Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said they are treating many with respiratory problems.

"The clock is ticking," an officer on Chios said Saturday. "How are we supposed to process hundreds, if not thousands, of asylum applications by April 4?"

The ministry responsible for migration issues said 71 migrants not covered by the EU deal had been returned to Turkey on Friday. Two were from Bangladesh and the rest from Pakistan.

Since the beginning of the year, 766 migrants from Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia and elsewhere had been sent back to Turkey, the Greek ministry said.

Greece and Turkey recently revived a 14-year-old bilateral deportation agreement.

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