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Politics

Turkey Ending Migrant Border Checks, Greece Reopening Asylum Review

As Greece will as of May 18 start reviewing asylum applications from refugees and migrants that had been suspended during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Turkey will reduce or stop checking them at its border with Greece.

The European Union's law enforcement agency Europol in its annual report on undocumented migration said Turkey wants to reduce the number of refugees and migrants it is holding – about 5.5 million, including 3.3 million from Syria.

Turkey is supposed to contain them under a 2016 swap deal with the European Union that has long been essentially suspended. In February, Turkey sent 10,000 migrants to the border with Greece and urged them to cross.

Greece closed its side of the border and sent riot police and Army units to repeal anyone trying to cross in the area that includes the treacherous Evros River where many have drowned trying to cross.

The refugees and migrants had gone to Turkey fleeing war and strife and poor economic conditions in their homelands and have been left only the option of seeking asylum in Greece as the EU closed its borders to them.

The report said Turkey will likely further step up efforts to get migrants into Greece, especially through the islands as human traffickers have been allowed by Turkey to keep sending them. Five Greek islands are holding more than 38,000, almost all wanting sanctuary.

The report noted new methods being used by traffickers to try to get migrants and refugees into Greece and the effect the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has had and Greece being a key transit country to people wanting to reach other EU countries.

The report said the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions will lead to an increase in migrant movements soon as Robert Crepinko, the head of Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) told Kathimerini Greece is a prime jumping-off point.

Greece's Asylum Service workers, overwhelmed with so many applications it can take two years to process, leading to frequent tension and violence at detention centers and camps holding people, will start the reviews but half the staff will work from home.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis extended all residence permits held by refugees for another six months from their date of expiration, to prevent the service from becoming further inundated by renewal applications.

The Asylum Service closed for new applicants on March 1, after the government announced Greece would not be accepting any new requests following of clashes between border police and thousands of people seeking to enter the EU from Turkey.

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