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Turkey 'building centres' for migrants returned under EU deal

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(ISTANBUL) - Turkey has begun work on two centres to process Syrian and other migrants after they return from Greece under a deal with the EU which comes into force next week, local officials and reports said Saturday.

Under the controversial agreement, Turkey is due to start receiving migrants who crossed the Aegean Sea for EU member Greece from Monday but so far details have been vague over how the transfer will be implemented.

Work has now started on a centre in the major Aegean tourist resort of Cesme in Izmir province, which faces the Greek island of Chios that has been a major target for migrants, the town's mayor said.

Water pipes and electricity cables are now being laid for the 500 square-metre area by the Ulusoy harbour in Cesme, mayor Muhittin Dalgic was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

The centre will have tents for finger-printing migrants, registering them as well as sanitation facilities, he said.

But Turkish officials said such centres are not refugee camps but processing points from which the migrants will be sent elsewhere as soon as possible.

"Once the health checks and registration is done for the migrants, they will be sent on to camps," Dalgic was quoted as saying.

"We intend to complete this work with them staying for as short a time as possible," he added.

There have been fears in Turkey's fashionable Aegean resorts that a sudden influx of migrants could prompt a backlash from locals and put off tourists.

Local officials in Dikili, also in Izmir province on the Aegean and facing the Greek island of Lesbos -- have said a readmission centre is being established in the region for migrants being sent back from Greece.

It remains to be seen how the initial transfers will proceed and if the Dikili and Cesme centres will be involved.

Pictures broadcast by NTV television Friday showed only a barren space at the site of the proposed Dikili centre.

Turkish media reports meanwhile have said the Turkish Red Crescent is preparing to open a new refugee camp further inland in Manisa in western Turkey -- its first outside the south and east of the country -- to accommodate the new influx.

Turkish and EU leaders earlier this month agreed the deal for curbing the influx of migrants that has plunged Europe into its biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II.

Turkey, which is hosting some 2.7 million Syrian refugees, will allow one Syrian to migrate to Europe in exchange for every one it takes back.

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