x

Society

Greece Stuck With 84 Percent of Refugee, Migrant Asylum Seekers

February 11, 2018

ATHENS – With more than 64,000 refugees and migrants abandoned in Greece after the European Union closed its borders to them, the former head of the country’s asylum service said only 16 percent can be sent back to Turkey under a suspended swap deal.

“Given what we know about Turkey, those who can be shipped back are mostly Syrians, who enjoy a high level of protection,” Maria Stavropoulou told Kathimerini, adding that the agency ruled that 2,200 Syrians can be returned from Greece to Turkey on safe third country grounds.

“However, due to appeals and cancellation requests the process can take a very long time,” she said. There are more than 15,000 on Greek islands, sent there by human traffickers Turkey has allowed to operate even during the suspended deal that began almost three years ago and has floundered amid penetrating criticism from human rights groups.

Stavropoulou, whose second term in office expired earlier in February, said authorities have recorded a drop in the number of arrivals in categories that are not eligible to return to Turkey or to their countries of origin.

“Most people who land on the islands come from countries with high recognition rates such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said, a mix of those fleeing war and strife and others hoping to get to more prosperous EU countries in search of work and a better life.

According to a March 2016 deal signed by the EU and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants in the Aegean, Turkey would receive up to six billion euros in aid, visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens and renewed EU accession talks in return for agreeing to take back those who cross over to Greece.

The slow pace of returns is often blamed on the huge backlog, which Stavropoulou puts at 9,000 cases.

“If (migrant) flows toward the islands came down to zero, I believe that the process could be completed in up to two-and-a-half months,” she told the paper, adding that there’s been an increase in the number of Turks who fled that country in the wake of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s purge of society after a failed coup attempt against him in July, 2016.

A total of 1,800 Turkish nationals applied for asylum in Greece in 2017, the service said but they are in the long queue that swelled with Greece unable to process the asylum applications faster and complaining of too little help from the EU even though a Greek politician, New Democracy’s Dimitris Avramopoulos, is head of the migration service for the bloc.

RELATED

ATHENS - Greece confirmed 17,960 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, with 66 of these identified at entry points to the country, the National Public Health Organization (EODY) said on Wednesday.

Top Stories

Society

ATHENS – A major snow storm that had been predicted for days still caught residents in Greece offguard and the New Democracy government scrambling for answers as to why motorists were stuck for hours on major roads.

Politics

US Congress represenatives Gus Bilirakis of Florida and Nicole Malliotakis of New York – both Republicans – assailed President Joe Biden's administration for no longer supporting the EastMed pipeline project by Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Associations

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, NY – In the presence of distinguished guests, the vasilopita was cut by the Federation of Greek American Educators in the community hall at St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Washington Heights on January 23.

Video

Meet Methuselah, the Oldest Living Aquarium Fish

SAN FRANCISCO — Meet Methuselah, the fish that likes to eat fresh figs, get belly rubs and is believed to be the oldest living aquarium fish in the world.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.