ATHENS – While accused of pushbacks, Greece’s New Democracy government’s effort to keep out refugees and migrants has worked so well that the numbers have been cut 56 percent in 2022 compared to the year before.
That was according to the Migration Ministry, said Italy’s Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) news agency in a report that also said the figures showed a 39 percent drop on Aegean islands that are a preferred destination.
“We continue to make every effort to effectively manage migration, against the efforts of the trafficking rings and the instrumentalization model that Turkey is pursuing,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis.
That was in reference to Turkey allowing human traffickers to keep sending refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and also Afghanistan.
That’s in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union which has done nothing about it, reluctant to further provoke Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in worry he will send more.
As of August there were 18,587 refugees and migrants in Greece, down dramatically from nearly 100,000 a few years earlier, although most are seeking asylum after the European Union closed its borders to them.
While most had been held on five islands, only 16 percent are being kept there in detention camps with 84 percent on the mainland in new facilities that nonetheless have drawn complaints over living conditions.
Some 725 left Greece in August for other EU countries or deportations while 1.963 more arrived, Turkey not abiding by conditions to take back those denied asylum and not sanctioned for it.
The Migration and Asylum Ministry also said in a media statement: “The goal and commitment of the Government is the equal and fair distribution of asylum seekers below 1 percent of the general population, and this has been achieved throughout the country by region, with the exception of the North Aegean Region which amounts to 1.21 percent.”
Exempt from general guidelines are Ukrainians forced out over their country’s invasion by Russia and who are getting special benefits and programs in Greece to help them relocate for now.
A total of 20,290 online applications from Ukrainians were submitted and 19,081 Temporary Protection Permits have been issued, the report said.
The ministry also said that communities across Greece that are hosting migrants have been granted an additional 3 million euros ($2.89 million) in funding to support their efforts. The additional funding, which is part of a total of 46 million of the so-called Solidarity Fund for 108 projects.