They’ve risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece, fleeing war and sectarian violence. Now, thanks to a deal struck in March to stem the flow of refugees into Europe, roughly 200 refugees were sent back to Turkey on Monday.
More than 1 million refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, and thousands more have made the perilous journey across stormy winter waters in 2016. Now all “irregular migrants” who arrived in Greece from Turkey after March 20 can be deported, according to the terms of the deal. In exchange, up to 72,000 Syrian refugees who have been stuck in camps across the region will be resettled across the European Union, and Turkey will receive $3.3 billion in aid.
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Activists expressed concern about the rights of refugees. “This is the bargaining and bartering of human bodies—it’s treating humans as goods,” Baran Doğan, a refugee rights activist from Turkey, told The Guardian. Doğan said Turkey, which has been the site of several terrorist attacks, is unsafe for refugees. “In reality, there are no legal jobs for them,” he said.
“The returns under way this morning in the Aegean are the symbolic start of the potential disastrous undoing of Europe’s commitment to protecting refugees,” Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe, Gauri van Gulik, told The Associated Press. “Urgent key questions are: What process is everyone going through, and what will become of them after their return?”