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UNHCR says stops transporting migrants in Lesbos, unhappy with EU-Turkey deal

A refugee boy, rescued at open sea, is helped to disembark a Frontex patrol vessel at the port of Mytilene on the Lesbos island

The United Nations refugee agency has stopped transporting migrants arriving on Lesbos from Turkey to a reception facility as their subsequent freedom of movement is no longer guaranteed, a UNHCR spokesman said, referring to last week’s EU-Turkey deal.

The UNHCR is concerned that the EU-Turkey deal is being prematurely implemented without required safeguards in place in Greece, the spokesman said.

At present, Greece does not have the systems in place on any of its islands to assess asylum claims. It also does not yet have proper conditions in place to accommodate people awaiting the decision.

“We have taken a principled decision to disengage from transportation to and from Moria, as since Sunday, freedom of movement is not guaranteed,” a UNHCR spokesman said, referring to a reception centre which newly arrived migrants have been detained at since March 20.

“UNHCR will continue to work on the shoreline and in the port of Lesbos, providing life-saving assistance alongside volunteers,” the spokesman said. At Moria, he added, the agency will focus on monitoring and counseling.

The EU-Turkey agreement clinched in Brussels last week is aimed at putting new arrivals in Greece seeking asylum on a fast-track for processing, but those who are turned down will be returned to Turkey.

The deal also foresees the right to appeal any decision to transfer the individual back to Turkey.

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