ATHENS- Although an earlier surge in the number of refugees and migrants coming to Greece from Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their countries, has subsided, the government still plans to accelerate asylum procedures and deportations.
The newly re-established Ministry for Migration and Asylum that New Democracy brought back after ousting the Radical Left SYRIZA in July 7, 2019 snap elections – the Leftists shut it down – is looking at ways to send more refugees and migrants back to Turkey.
Only about 2000 have been returned since a now-essentially suspended swap deal between Turkey and the European Union was signed almost four years ago and there’s no way to force that country to accept them.
The plans to handle asylum applications from virtually all the 100,000 refugees and migrants stuck in Greece after the EU closed its borders to them are being picked up ahead of the spring when officials fear the better weather could see another incursion.
There are near 50,000 on Greek islands where they had gone in a bid to get accepted in an EU country, most from Afghanistan and Syria fearing for their lives and with priority for asylum, as well as thousands of others from areas such as sub-Saharan Africa who are looking for work.
Another 577 migrants and refugees landed on Greek islands in the past week with officials and residents protesting the government’s lagging plans to move more to the mainland and New Democracy plans to replace camps with more detention centers aimed at vetting those ineligible for sanctuary.
Asylum and return procedures are also expected to speed up following a decision by the European Asylum Support Office to bolster its presence in Greece with the deployment of 550 additional personnel, said Kathimerini.
The new ministry is also planning to create a comprehensive register of all Greek and foreign non-governmental organizations that are active in the field to get more details on how they operate and how they are spending EU funding.