Migrants sent back on ships from Greek islands arrive in Turkey

The first groups of migrants being sent back to Turkey under a deal reached between Ankara and the European Union disembarked Monday in the western Turkish port of Dikili.

Each migrant, carrying one or two bags, was accompanied by Turkish officials to registration tents. Health, security and immigration officials were also present.

A small group of protesters in Dikili unfurled a banner that read "stop deportations." But the situation was calm.

The first two ships were from the Greek island of Lesbos, carrying about 136 migrants, Greek emergency officials said.

The vessels were accompanied by the Turkish coast guard, while a police helicopter circled above.

A third ship with 66 migrants on board set sail from the Greek island of Chios and was heading towards the Turkish coastal town of Cesme.

"On board the ships which left Lesbos there are 136 migrants. In the second ship, the one that left Chios, there are 66 migrants," Giorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for the department dealing with the refugee crisis, told dpa.

There were only men on board the ships, and just two were Syrians who had volunteered to return to Turkey.

The remainder were migrants from Pakistan and North African countries who have no right to asylum, the spokesman added.

Earlier, Greek television showed buses, accompanied by police, ferrying dozens of migrants to the harbour on Lesbos.

Turkish authorities and the EU's Frontex border force boarded the boats, on which people wearing face masks could also be seen.

No further returns were expected on Monday, a Greek police spokeswoman said. "First the registered asylum applications must be dealt with," she told reporters on Lesbos.

Additional asylum experts from other EU countries were needed to do this, the spokeswoman said.

Under a deal struck between the EU and Turkey last month, migrants who arrived in Greece after March 20 who do not apply for asylum or fail to qualify will be returned to Turkey.

For every migrant sent back to Turkey, one Syrian refugee will be directly taken from Turkey and resettled in Europe.

The first Syrian asylum seekers to enter the EU legally directly from Turkey landed at Hanover airport on Monday.

The 24 refugees were to be taken to a reception centre in Friedland near Goettingen in northern Germany. A further 18 refugees were expected to arrive at the airport by midday.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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