Some 547 migrants arrived in Greece’s eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Thursday in thirteen boats that set sail from the Turkish coast, marking the largest number of arrivals in a single day since the peak of a refugee crisis in 2015-2016, Greek daily Kathimerini reported citing local media.
Some 177 were men, 124 were women and 246 were children who landed on the northern beach of Skala Sykamias, Kathimerini said. Most of the refugees are families.
Giorgos Koumoutsakos, the Greek minister in charge of migration policy, said last week during a television program that the country would resume deportations of migrants to Turkey to cope with illegal crossing that had tripled since last month.
Turkey and the EU agreed on a refugee deal in 2016 to cut the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. A key provision of the deal was that immigrants arriving on Greek islands would be returned to Turkey unless they applied for and received asylum in Greece.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu last month said that Turkey would cancel the readmission deal with the EU if the bloc failed to deliver on its promise of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. His statement came amid escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over hydrocarbon resources and the EU’s decision to impose punitive measures on Turkey due to Ankara’s increasing efforts for gas drilling off Cyprus.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government has been implementing harsh measures to curb irregular migration as it is under the pressure of growing anti-refugee sentiments inside the country. The government, on the one hand, is trying to decrease the Syrian refugee population in Istanbul by forcing them to return to the provinces they registered upon arrival, while also detaining undocumented migrants mainly from elsewhere in the Middle East as well as Africa and Asia.