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Europe Ushers In New Policy On Migrants Arriving Illegally


This week marks the start of Europe's new regime governing migrants and asylum-seekers. From now on, people who arrive illegally are to be sent back to Turkey. Migrants continue to arrive in Greece by boat. On the Greek island of Lesbos, Michele Telaro is field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. Welcome to the program.

MICHELE TELARO: Hi. Good afternoon.

SIEGEL: Do the people who are trying to get in and who are there on Lesbos - are they aware that there is a new regime in effect and that the rules governing their future have just changed?

TELARO: So far, no. I mean, a few of them are aware. They know that there is this new agreement between European Union and Turkey, but they're not fully aware about the content. For example, there were people yesterday that had just arrived, and they were asking, as it was before, to be able to leave, to take a ferry to go to Athens to try to go to German. And in fact, this is clearly not the case anymore.

SIEGEL: But they were unaware of that fact.

TELARO: No, they were not aware of that, not at all. And in fact, we are absolutely trying to advocate the authorities because they absolutely have to provide the information as precise as possible to the people because now people arrive here, and they have no clear idea at all of what is going on here.

SIEGEL: What are you asking the authorities to do?

TELARO: Well, now - and this is just really in these last two days. First of all, we ask to the authorities to give us and all the other humanitarians that are here to a clear information about this new procedure because so far, it's not so clear. People, for example - they can ask for asylum or not. If they do not ask for asylum, they will be sent back to Turkey. But how they can choose without having precise information?

SIEGEL: But just to be clear, do you believe that the authorities in Lesbos know the answers to all of your questions and aren't telling you, or are they making it up as they go along? Do they not actually know the answers to these questions?

TELARO: No. Of course, of course you're right. The authorities in Lesbos now - they are trying to applying some new directive that come from Athens, but it still is not completely clear because, I guess, also, the central authorities in Athens now do not have any very precise idea about how things are going to happen. So local authorities, so far - (unintelligible) they're trying to understand, and they will inform us as soon as possible.

SIEGEL: This morning or yesterday when you spoke with newly arrived migrants, what sense did you get from them of their situations?

TELARO: Basically it is the same as it was before. These people are fleeing a war, and it is a terrible war. And they're just looking for a safe place where to stay and to try to have a normal life. But in Turkey, so far they, cannot work. They cannot send people to school. They don't have basic services and assistance. So how they can stay in Turkey right now?

SIEGEL: Michele Telaro, thank you very much for talking with us today.

TELARO: Thank you. Goodbye.

SIEGEL: That's Michele Telaro, who is coordinator for Doctors Without Borders on the Greek island of Lesbos. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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