ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy administration set up a new Ministry of Migration and Asylum as part of a plan to speed asylum applications from most of the more than 96,000 refugees and migrants in camps and detention centers and deport as many as 20,000.
They were initially sent to Greek islands from Turkey, where they had first fled from war and strife in their homelands as well and those looking for work but found themselves in limbo after the European Union closed its borders, leaving them stranded in Greece.
The new ministry will be led by Notis Mitarakis, who was Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, according to a statement by the government spokesman, while George Koumoutsakos, Alternate minister for Immigration Policy, will have the same position in the new ministry with more set to be sworn in.
Major opposition leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras, whose Radical Left SYRIZA was accused by New Democracy of having an open door policy during his 4 ½-year reign when the refugee and migrant crisis arose, took an immediate shot back.
“My congratulations to Mr. Mitsotakis as he only needed six months and seven days to realize the mess he created concerning the refugee issue,” Tsipras said in a sarcastic tweet about Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The government hopes to speed sanctuary reviews and return 20,000 back to Turkey with no way of forcing that under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU, with other countries in the bloc reneging on promises to help take some of the overload.