Alternate Minister for Citizens’ Protection Nikos Toskas on Saturday confirmed that Turkish officials will be posted to the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean to act as observers and oversee the relocation of migrants who are not eligible for protection from Greece back to Turkey.
Speaking on Skai TV amid media reports that Turkish officials would be allowed into refugee documentation centers, Toskas said that this is part of a protocol he signed with his Turkish counterpart during a Greek government mission to Izmir earlier in the week in order to speed up relocations.
“In this framework, it will be possible for Turkish observers to be admitted at Greek islands to speed up procedures so that migrants who are not eligible for protection are returned [to Turkey] within 48 hours,” Toskas said.
The observers, he said, will be responsible for checking identification and travel documents together with Greek officials, and signing the protocol for the return of non-refugees to Turkey. For the time being, he said, one Turkish observer will be assigned to the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos, with a view to expanding their presence to the other islands struggling with inflows.
Turkey agreed at an emergency European Union summit last week to take back migrants from over-burdened Greece in exchange for more aid from the bloc. European leaders will meet with Turkish officials again next week to hammer out the details of the deal.
“The big gamble that is being played out in light of the March 17 and 18 summit is the relocation of refugees from Greece to countries of the European Union and the readmission of ‘illegal’ migrants by Turkey,” Toskas said.