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Mitsotakis Says Greece Will Speed Refugee, Migrants Asylum, Deportations

Αssociated press

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

With Greece overrun with more than 70,000 refugees and migrants, including more than 15,000 on islands near Turkey which lets human traffickers operate, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsoakis said his new New Democracy government will pick up the pace of asylum reviews but also send back those deemed ineligible.

Under a suspended swap deal with the European Union, Turkey is supposed to take back those who don't get asylum but only a relative handful have among those stuck in detention centers and camps in Greece, including on the mainland.

His comments were in the French newspaper Le Figaro just ahead of a meeting he had in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron where they later called on the EU to show some solidarity in dealing with the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis.

Human rights groups have complained about what they said were inhumane conditions for those being detained, some more than two years waiting for asylum applications to be decided and with frequent tension between ethnic groups and with riot police called to quell violence.

Only seven weeks into his administration and hit with wildfires across the country, the government hasn't moved to deal with the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis but Mitsotakis said it would, in the form of faster decisions for asylum and deportations.

Those who can't stay in Greece would be sent back to Turkey, where they went after fleeing war and strife in their countries in the Middle East and economic conditions in other countries. The EU closed its borders to them, dumping the problem largely on Greece.

The EU's migration chief – New Democracy's Dimitris Avramopoulos – said he can't force other countries to live up to pledges to take some of the overload from Greece and can't take them to court because it's too delicate politically for him to deal with.

Asked by journalist Alexia Kefala if the situation in Greece is "out of control", Mitsotakis answered: I will insist on the need for changes to the policies of asylum and a reform of the Dublin regime,” which stipulates asylum can only be sought in the first country in which refugees and migrants land, almost always Greece or Italy.

“Those who have the right to asylum will, obviously, have every right to remain in Greece, while those who are not eligible for asylum must be returned to Turkey, as foreseen in the EU-Turkey agreement,” said Mitsotakis in France.