ATHENS – A new scheme designed to relieve overloading of refugees and migrants on Greek islands will speed asylum application procedures as well as deportations, the New Democracy government is hoping.
There are more than 45,000 on islands near Turkey – where they had first gone fleeing war and strife in their homelands before human traffickers there were allowed to send them to Greece to seek sanctuary.
Scores of thousands came after the Conservatives won July 7, 2019 snap elections, ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that was accused by its rival of having an open-door policy effectively inviting refugees and migrants to come.
The European Union, reneging on pledges to help spread the arrivals around other countries, closed its borders to them, dumping the problem largely on Greece during the height of its near decade-long economic and austerity crisis.
There’s no way to force Turkey – which has accepted only about 2,000 back since a now essentially-suspended swap deal with the EU began in 2016 – to take back more, leaving New Democracy in a quandary.
There are another 50,000 on the mainland and the government is also planning to replace island camps with detention centers to vet out those deemed ineligible for asylum, giving preference to those fleeing war and terrorism over economic migrants, largely from.
At the beginning of December, 83,683 first-instance asylum applications were pending, said Kathimerini, with many applicants having to wait up to two years for an answer and six months even to file a request.
On Lesbos in 2019, some 18,800 asylum applications were registered out of a total of 54,000 across the country. Priority will be given to those who fled Syria’s civil war as well as those from Afghanistan.