BERLIN: The first Syrian refugees will arrive in Germany Monday under a controversial EU-Turkey pact seeking to stem the flow of migrants to the 28-member bloc, the interior ministry in Berlin said.
Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate told Agence France-Presse Friday that most of the arrivals in Germany would be families with children, putting the number in the “double-digit range.”
Under the scheme agreed with the EU last month and set to go into effect Monday, one Syrian refugee will be settled in Europe legally in return for every migrant taken back by Turkey from EU member Greece.
All irregular migrants who have landed on the Greek islands since March 20 face being sent back to Turkey — although the deal calls for each case to be examined individually.
Athens has struggled to manage the influx, while hundreds of migrants have drowned crossing the Aegean from Turkey to the Greek islands.
Over 51,000 refugees and migrants seeking to reach northern Europe are already stuck in Greece, after Balkan states sealed their borders.
Hundreds more continue to land on the Greek islands on a daily basis, despite the EU deal.
The German interior ministry spokesman said the first group would likely arrive in the northern town of Friedland.
Many of the details remained unclear but a European Commission source told AFP that Greece hoped to send 500 people back to Turkey Monday “barring a last-minute problem.”
Aid groups have criticized the agreement on ethical grounds, warning that the Greek registration sites would become de facto detention centers for people slated to be sent back to Turkey after risking their lives and spending a small fortune just to reach Europe.
Germany let in a record 1.1 million migrants in 2015, more than any other EU country. Around 40 percent of them were Syrians fleeing their country’s brutal civil war.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, under pressure at home and abroad for her welcoming stance toward refugees, brokered the EU agreement with Turkey as part of a bid to slow the influx to the bloc. AFP