Balkan Insight – Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to the protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara on Thursday. The country is the first among EU member states to sign the protocol, which sets procedures for sending refugees back to Turkey.
The Turkish and Bulgarian interior ministers also agreed on procedures for a joint contact centre between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, which will start operation in several weeks’ time at the Capitan Andreevo border checkpoint on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. It aims to allow the three countries to exchange operational information on issues related to people-smuggling, contraband and counter-terrorism.
The Guardian – The EU executive on Wednesday gave its provisional blessing to visa-free travel for Turkish tourists and short-stay travellers to the Schengen Area, which excludes the UK and Ireland. It backed the scheme on the condition that Ankara upgrades laws on anti-corruption, terrorism and data protection in the next few weeks. In another important caveat, visa-free travel would only be available to those Turks with biometric passports that include fingerprint recognition chips. Such passports do not exist in Turkey, although the government plans to introduce them from 1 June.
Human Rights Watch – With little fanfare or media attention, the European Union and Greece yesterday quietly resumed deporting “irregular migrants” from Greece to Turkey. After a two-week pause, boats reportedly took 31 people from Kos, 13 from Lesbos, and five from Chios – among them Afghanis, Iranians, and Jordanians. Since April 4, when deportations in connection with the flawed EU-Turkey deal began, Greece and the EU border agency Frontex have deported 375 people from the three islands.
The Guardian – Europe’s leading human rights body has issued a stinging indictment of the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey, which it said at worst exceeds the limits of what is permissible under international law.
A report from the Council of Europe’s assembly listed numerous concerns on human rights, from keeping migrants in overcrowded and insanitary detention centres on the Greek islands to inadequate legal protection for people seeking to appeal against rejection of an asylum claim.
South China Morning Post – A new wave of refugees has fled northern Syria for the Turkish border after Islamic State fighters opened fire on communities that had sheltered them, killing at least three people and uprooting thousands more.
The killings came as the terror group pushed back Syrian opposition forces who had edged to within 8km of Dabiq, a highly symbolic village that the group’s leaders believe is the pre-ordained epicentre of a clash that will herald an apocalyptic showdown .
Nieuwsuur – Eyewitnesses say: Turkey sends back Syrian refugees to Syria. The Turkish Ambassador in The Netherlands denies the allegations. Watch our report and our interview with The Turkish Ambassador in The Netherlands.
EuroNews – Some 325 migrants have been deported to Turkey from the Greek island of Lesbos under an EU deal. They wait to learn of their fate inside a fenced reception and removal centre in the town of Pehlivankoy. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says it has yet to gain access to the facility. Migrants from Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq call for freedom from behind the facility’s barred windows. They were deported from Lesbos on Friday (April 8) under the controversial EU-Turkey deal to stem mass irregular migration to Europe.
Platanos Refugee Solidarity Lesvos – Today at the break of dawn began the second process of deportation, from the harbour of Mitilini, while 174 individuals (100 from Kos, 29 from Samos and 45 from Mitilini) were led to Dikeli, accompanied by an equal number of body guards, that each one was in charge of the “safety” of the transported. Since the night before, the harbour of Mitilini was closed off by forces of Riot police. As the hours passed the presence of police in the area became progressively more intense.
Reuters – Turkey’s parliament approved overnight an agreement enabling Ankara to repatriate Pakistani migrants, as people continue to be sent to Turkey from Greece as part of an EU deal to stem mass migration to Europe. Pakistani migrants are among those that have already been sent back to Turkey under the deal.
Anadolu Agency – Nearly one-third of Turkey’s rocket-resistant concrete wall being built along the border with Syria has been completed, Turkish security sources told Anadolu Agency Thursday. Out of the 911-kilometer long planned wall, 300 kilometers is complete, sources said.
Turkish Interior Ministry gave nearly 250 million Turkish liras to governorates of border provinces of Sirnak, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Kilis, Gaziantep and Hatay for the construction of the wall, sources said. So far, the wall along Hatay and Sanliurfa has been mostly completed. The wall, which is expected to get completed next year, will be two-meter wide and three-meter high with seven-ton modular concrete blocks. According to the same sources, razor wire fences would also be placed along the border.