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"These people risked their lives to get here. Were they given the right information? Did they know their rights?" a volunteer asked, questioning official claims that the roughly 200 people deported on Monday did so voluntarily. (Photo: EPA)

"These people risked their lives to get here. Were they given the right information? Did they know their rights?" a volunteer asked, questioning official claims that the roughly 200 people deported on Monday did so voluntarily. (Photo: EPA)

'Shameful Day': Critics Protest as Europe Begins Bartering of Human Beings

Under heavily guarded escort, including riot police and helicopters, roughly 200 migrants were loaded on boats and shipped back to Turkey on Monday

Lauren McCauley

Under heavily guarded escort, including riot police and helicopters, roughly 200 migrants were loaded on boats and shipped back to Turkey on Monday, marking the start of a contentious EU-Turkey agreement that critics have said reduces human suffering to a mere bargaining device.

"A deeply shameful day for the EU," was how humanitarian organization Global Justice Now described the moment.

Three boats made the journey across the Aegean Sea to the Turkish port of Dikili. Two boats, carrying 131 mainly Pakistani migrants, departed from Lesbos while a third brought 66 people, most of whom are Afghanis, from the nearby island of Chios.

And while officials emphasized that the all individuals "left voluntarily," the migrants were escorted by mask-wearing officials from the EU border agency Frontex while police helicopters buzzed overhead.

Ninety percent of the 2,800 detainees being held at the Moria detention camp in Lesbos have applied for asylum. Reporting from Lesbos, reporter Andrew Connelly wrote on Monday that it "seems far from certain that all migrants deported from Lesbos today were aware of their rights or understood the asylum process in Greece."

Volunteers with refugee rights groups also questioned how much information or choice the first forced deportees were given.

"These people risked their lives to get here. Were they given the right information? Did they know their rights?" Steffi De Pous, a Dutch volunteer, told the Guardian adding that many volunteers were going to Moria with megaphones to "let them know what their rights are so that they are not bullied into this process."

"This is the bargaining and bartering of human bodies—it’s treating humans as goods," added Baran Doğan, a refugee rights campaigner from Izmir, Turkey.

Connelly also noted that the process may be less calm when officials begin the forcible removal of Syrian mothers and children, writing on Twitter:

The Guardian also said that volunteers in Chios reported seeing "police beating deportees at the quay."

And despite the fact that the process was reportedly carried out several hours ahead of schedule, protesters met the boats at dawn, holding banners that read: "No Borders, No Nations, Stop Deportations" and "EU Started the Biggest Official Human Trafficking of Human History! Shame on Europe."

Under the deal reached early last month, Turkey is obligated to take back all refugees, including those coming from Syria, who try to migrate to Europe "illegally." In exchange, Europe has said it will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with more money, early visa-free travel, and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

Across Europe on Sunday, demonstrations were held in protest of the new forced deportation policy. Roughly 1,500 people took part in a march at the Brenner border crossing between Italy and Austria, where police in riot gear brandished batons and pepper spray at the demonstrators. And in Greece, roughly 100 migrants blockaded a highway near the village of Idomeni.


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