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Greece Plans Faster Migrant Returns to Turkey from Islands

December 15, 2017

ATHENS – Ripped by human rights groups for conditions in detention centers and camps on islands, Greece’s beleaguered government said it wants to speed the return to Turkey of those found ineligible.

There are more than 64,000 stuck in Greece after the European Union closed its doors to them, including more than 15,000 on islands near Turkey, which has let human traffickers operate, including during a suspended swap deal with the European Union.

That has drastically cut the numbers coming to Greece with their hopes dashed of moving on to more prosperous EU countries but not accelerated of those who don’t get asylum as the country is overwhelmed with the applications and receiving little help during a crushig economic crisis.

The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition is now planning to amend a law governing the process of granting asylum to refugees with a bill expected to go to Parliament next week, its aim being to push the return of those ineligible to Turkey, where they had landed after fleeing war and strife in the Middle East, especially from Syria.

As of Dec. 13, Greece’s asylum service said its staff had processed 33,021 applications for asylum since March 2016, when the Turkey-EU deal was signed, although most of those are appealed, slowing the process for months, leaving the applicants stuck in the camps and centers, some for up to two years.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans to go to Brussels Dec. 21 to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and perhaps Bulgarian President Boyko Borisov, whose country will to assume the EU’s rotating symbolic presidency in January and is on the route between Greece and the rest of the EU.

Tsipras was expected to say the faster return of migrants has the support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited him in Athens earlier this month, although there are some worries that a coming transfer of 5000 refugees and migrants from the islands to the mainland might spur more arrivals on Greek islands.

Tsipras and the European Commissioner in charge of migrant affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos from Greece’s major opposition New Democracy, have blistered European Council President Donald Tusk for his plan to end asylum quotas from other EU countries and leave the problem in Greece and Italy, the landing spots for refugees and migrants.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis will also go to Brussels at the same time and said he’s upset with Tusk, whose country, Poland, is one of those due to be taken to the EU’s justice court for refusing to take migrants and refugees.

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