Syrians and Afghans threatened with deportation from the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios have said they would rather take their own lives than be expelled from the EU under its migration deal with Turkey.
On Monday, 202 migrants were forcibly returned from Lesbos and Chios to the Turkish coast under the landmark deal aimed at halting “irregular” migration to Europe.
But Souaob Nouri from Kabul, who is held in the high-security camp in Chios, said: “If they deport us, we will kill ourselves. We will not go back.”
A man next to him warned of “terrible scenes” if Greek authorities insisted on pursuing policies that have already caused alarm among human rights groups.
“We are not terrorists,” said the man, who gave his name as Akimi. “We are refugees. The conditions here are very bad. There is no water. They hit pregnant women. Why do they treat us like this? All we want is asylum.”
Similar threats of self harm were echoed on Lesbos this week. In a letter passed to the Guardian by aid volunteers on the island, inmates held in the Moria detention centre wrote that they would rather “accept death” than be deported to Turkey. “We will accept death but not return back,” the letter said, adding: “We will all commit suicide if they deport us.”
The expulsions have been fraught with controversy. Thirteen of the 66 deportees who were sent back across the Aegean Sea from Chios under armed guard are believed to have “expressed intent” to apply for asylum – enough, say UN officials, to have kept them in Greece until their requests were examined.
“Between 20 March when the deal came into effect and 1 April when it was voted into legislation [by Greek MPs] we have seen limits in the ability of authorities to process claims,” said Katerina Kitidi with the UN refugee agency on Chios, an east Aegean island south of Lesbos. “There has been a definite lack of clarity.”
The uncertainty has quickly fuelled tensions on the island. More than 800 inmates broke out of the vastly overcrowded detention facility last week in violent scenes that ultimately saw men, women and children march into Chios town…
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