LESBOS, Greece — Aid workers on the island of Lesbos on Thursday protested planned deportations of migrants and refugees from Greece, as the government said the process would not start for at least another 10 days.

Blowing whistles and banging aluminum containers, dozens of aid workers gathered outside a refugee registration center on the island where hundreds of people are now being detained.

“We organized this protest … to give a face to the people because they almost have none anymore, since they are locked inside,” independent aid worker Nefeli Gazis said.

More than 2,000 refugees and migrants have been detained on Lesbos and other islands near the Turkish coast since an international agreement went into effect Sunday to fast track deportations to Turkey.

Last week’s EU-Turkey agreement stipulates those arriving on Greek islands from the Turkish coast as of March 20 would be detained and sent back. For every Syrian returned, another Syrian in Turkey will be relocated to a European country.

European officials say the system aims to discourage refugees from risking their lives to cross the Aegean. Human rights groups have strongly criticized the decision as inhumane and illegal, with most scaling back operations that involve assisting the government.

In Athens, a government official said deportations would start on April 4, and would be carried out by the European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex.

Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for a government refugee crisis committee, said the send-backs would start with migrants who had made no asylum claim while being held in detention in Greece.

Earlier, Kyritsis said the government was creating 30,000 new places at refugee shelters.


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