The EU has taken in 2,672 legal Syrian refugees from Turkey, which is far more than the number of people it sent back, according to a media report. Under the EU-Turkey agreement, the influx should match the returns.
European officials deported 801 people to Turkey in 2016, and over half of the deportations happened within two months of the controversial March migration deal between the EU and Turkey, Germany's "Welt am Sonntag" weekly newspaper reported on Sunday.
Citing an EU Commission document, the paper also claims that 2,672 Syrians legally arrived in the EU, with over 1,000 being resettled in Germany.
Last year's multi-billion euro deal calls for Ankara to stop the flow of people trying to reach Europe from Turkey and also allows the EU to send back migrants who enter the 28-member bloc from Turkey while setting out special conditions for Syrians. For each Syrian who does not receive asylum in the EU, the bloc agrees to fly a vetted Syrian to a European country.
The agreement has come under heavy criticism as some in Europe question the quality of living conditions provided to refugees in Turkey.
Hundreds of smugglers arrested
The deal and the closure of borders in the Balkan route have managed to reduce the influx of migrants. Still, over 320,000 people asked for asylum in Germany alone during 2016, the newspaper adds. Also, the European border protection agency Frontex noted a sharp rise in the number of illegal entries from north Africa.
The German Interior Ministry has arrested over 900 suspected people smugglers on its territory during the first 11 months of last year, and over half of them were detained near its southeast border with Austria, according to "Welt am Sonntag."
Europe was overwhelmed by the 2015 migrant wave, with Germany taking in nearly 1 million migrants in that year alone.
dj/sms (dpa, KNA)