Officials in Greece rejects UN criticism about deported Syrians

October 22, 2016 2:58 pm

A Syrian father walks with his children inside Ritsona refugee camp, north of Athens, , October 21, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Officials in Greece have defended a decision to deport 10 refugees to Turkey, saying none of the Syrians had sought to stay in Greece as claimed by the refugee agency, also known as the UNHCR.
The Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection issued a statement on Saturday, saying the UNHCR’s criticism of the deportation of the Syrians to Turkey was “unfounded.”
The ministry said the return of the refugees to Turkey was carried out “in accordance with the EU-Turkey agreement.”
The European Union and Turkey reached a deal in March, whereby all refugees landing on the coasts of Greece are sent back to Turkey. Under the agreement, Turkey enjoys an array of economic and political benefits while it also can redistribute Syrians from its massive camps to the EU countries through a more organized system.
The UNHCR said on Friday that Greece’s decision to return the refugees seriously concerned the refugee agency as Greek officials failed to duly consider their asylum claims.
“None of the 10 Syrians sent back to Turkey had expressed a wish to seek asylum in Greece,” the Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection said.
“Even before their departure from Kos airport to return to Turkey, Greek police asked them once more whether they wanted to put in a last-minute asylum request, but only one family of three said they wanted to apply. They subsequently did not have to leave the country for Turkey,” the ministry said, adding that the Syrians spent 10 days in a reception center on the island of Leros before they were dispatched to Turkey.
It added that the Greek police informed the refugees upon their arrival in Milos that they had the right to international protection.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are still fleeing conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria. Many blame Western policies for the unprecedented exodus.
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