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Pictures: More than 100 migrants have been sent back to Turkey

Yesterday saw the second wave of deportations.

Greece Migrants A migrant boy waiting for food at a border crossing in the north of Greece Amel Emric / PA Wire Amel Emric / PA Wire / PA Wire

GREECE DEPORTED A second batch of more than two hundred migrants to Turkey yesterday under a controversial EU deal to stem mass migration as Germany announced a sharp drop in asylum claims.

Greek officials said two boats carrying 124 migrants – most of them Pakistani men – had been sent back across the Aegean Sea where hundreds have lost their lives in a quest to reach Europe.

A small group of activists leapt into the water, clutching onto the anchor of the first ferry in an unsuccessful bid to stop the deportation, while a group of protesters chanted “EU, shame on you” and “Freedom for the refugees”.

Greece Migrants Activists jumping into the sea in an attempt to prevent a deportation yesterday Petros Giannakouris / PA Wire Petros Giannakouris / PA Wire / PA Wire

After arriving at the Turkish harbour town of Dikili, security officials escorted the downcast migrants, clutching blankets and with small backpacks on their shoulders, off the vessels.

A Greek government statement said the migrants included 111 Pakistanis, four Iraqis, as well as citizens of Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Egypt, and a man claiming to be of Palestinian origin.

One of the Pakistanis was not accepted by Turkish authorities at Dikili for undisclosed reasons and was returned to Lesbos, the statement said.

In a separate operation, another 97 people – mainly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis – were returned to Turkey via the land border, Greek police said.

The deportations are taking place under a deal between Turkey and the European Union, which is straining under the pressure from the unprecedented flow of migrants into its territory.

Greece Migrants A migrant being led on board a ferry in Lesbos to be deported AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris / Petros Giannakouris

Turkey has promised to take back all irregular migrants entering Greece since 20 March while Europe has agreed to resettle one Syrian refugee directly from camps in Turkey for each Syrian deported.

The deported migrants arriving in Dikili underwent health checks and registration before they are due to be sent by bus to Kirklareli on the Bulgarian border, from where they are expected to be deported back to their home country.

The threat of deportation is aimed at discouraging people from making the often deadly crossing in flimsy boats.

Greece Migrants A Pakistani man having his documents checked before being sent to Turkey Petros Giannakouris / PA Wire Petros Giannakouris / PA Wire / PA Wire

‘Off to a good start’ 

The transfers began Monday with some 200 migrants returned to Turkey, but then stalled after a last-minute flurry of asylum applications.

Human rights watchdogs say the scheme is badly flawed, and have raised concerns that migrants may not have the chance to apply for asylum before being deported.

France’s Secretary of State for Europe Harlem Desir, speaking in Athens yesterday, called on EU members to do speed up efforts to help Greece deal with the migrants.

Desir was in the Greek capital with his Dutch, Italian, Maltese, Portuguese and  Slovak counterparts with whom he held talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. They will travel on to Istanbul today.

Greece Migrants Migrant children at the Greek border with Macedonia on Thursday AP Photo / Amel Emric) AP Photo / Amel Emric) / Amel Emric)

If all the member states respect their promises,” to provide humanitarian aid and personnel reinforcement to Greece  ”we would have the capacity to accelerate” both the sending of migrants from Greece to Turkey,” he said.

While concerns remain over the deal, Germany – Europe’s top destination for refugees – said it had “got off to a good start”.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced that asylum applications had dropped 66% in March, down to 20,000.

De Maiziere has warned that the shutdown of the Turkey-Greece route may encourage more migrants to attempt the even more dangerous Mediterranean crossing from Libya to Italy.

The drop in migrant numbers appears largely due to much-criticised border closures in the Balkans, as well as an increased clampdown by Turkey on people smugglers.

Greece, which has borne the brunt of the migrant crisis, plans to evacuate a huge makeshift camp at the port of Piraeus ahead of the busy tourism season.

- © AFP, 2016 

Read: Pope Francis uses Easter message to hit out at the “rejection” of migrants

Also: Amnesty calls EU migrant deal ‘flawed, illegal and immoral’

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