The UN refugee agency pulled out staff on Tuesday from facilities on Lesbos and other Greek islands being used to detain refugees as an international deal with Turkey came under further strain. Greece began arresting everyone arriving in boats from Turkey after the agreement went into effect on Sunday. They are being held at European Union-supervised registration centres known as “hotspots”, in what Greek government officials describe as “compulsory supervision”.
Under the deal, detained refugees will be sent back to Turkey, which in return will receive additional EU financial aid and join an EU resettlement programme for Syrians and others fleeing war. The international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also said it suspended its activities at the “hotspot” known as Moria on Lesbos island.
“We made the extremely difficult decision to end our activities in Moria because continuing to work inside would make us complicit in a system we consider to be both unfair and inhumane,” said Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF head of mission in Greece. “We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalised for a mass expulsion operation, and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”
The UN agency’s spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in Geneva it is “concerned that the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented before the required safeguards are in place in Greece”. “Greece does not have sufficient capacity on the islands for assessing asylum claims, nor the proper conditions to accommodate people decently and safely pending an examination of their cases,” said Fleming.