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Greek Gov’t: 40K people to relocate from the islands in 2 months, 10K “returns” by 2020

The Greek government has drafted an ambitious plan in order to deal with the migration crisis and decongest the overcrowded hot spots on the islands of the East Aegean Sea.. The cabinet held a four-hour meeting on Mondayin the shadow of the tragic incidents in the camp of Moria.

At the meeting, the cabinet discussed tightening the asylum applications procedures and the granting of asylum, government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, stressed.

The plan contents provisions among others to decongest the hot spots on the islands, to tighten criteria for vulnerable groups and to accelerate deportations to “safe third countries.”

Island Decongestion

One relocation program for 40,000 people, funded by the European Commission. Another relocation program for 16,000 people who will be hosted in hotels across the country.

Asylum seekers will be transferred from the islands and distributed to the 13 regions of Greece.

“Returns” of those not eligible to asylum to reach 10,000 by 2020.

In detail, the Cabinet decided:

1) Strengthening our border guard, in particular by increasing patrols at sea. Already in the last week, patrols have intensified and additional 23 patrols are being carried out daily in the eastern Aegean islands.

2) Construction of enclosed pre-departure centers for those who have entered the country illegally and are not entitled to asylum, or their application is rejected.

3) Increase returns, from 1,806 during the 4.5 years of the previous SYRIZA government, to 10,000 by the end of 2020.

4) Creating a “safe country” list so that those who have entered Greece illegally are returned immediately.

5) Continue the decongestion of the Eastern Aegean islands

6) Internationalization of the problem, in addition to the Prime Minister’s presentation of the issue at the 74th UN General Assembly in New York, with four actions:

  • (a) Initiative on the Eastern Mediterranean Migration Road, with a related document to be presented jointly by Bulgaria, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union Council of Justice and Home Affairs on 7-8 October 2019.
  • (b) Visit of the Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection Mr. G. Koumoutsakos to Turkey on 2-3 October 2019 for talks on the matter with his Turkish counterpart.
  • (c) Visit of the French and German Interior Ministers to Turkey and Greece within the week
  • (d) Greek initiative to include the issue at the European Council of 17-18 October 2019.

Citizen Protection Minister, Michalis Chrysochoidis, introduced the bill to speed up and tighten asylum application and grant procedures. Among others, the main objective is:

  • to develop a new asylum system, compact, structured, rigorous, fair, designed in the light of exceptional circumstances.

The basic principles of the bill are:

(a) Full respect for the rights of asylum seekers, as provided by the EU Law

(b) Requiring applicants to cooperate with national authorities;

(c) Inclusion in the asylum system of only those applicants who have a refugee profile and retention in the system only of those who comply with their obligations;

d) Rapid removal from the system of those not eligible to asylum.

The purpose of the above interventions is to complete the relevant asylum procedures within three months.

Asylum Procedures Changes

The process of granting (or rejecting) an asylum application is speed up, by reducing the steps for examining the applications, abolishing the fourth degree of asylum, and transferring the cases to the Courts of First Instance with annulment control.

Appeals Committees are maintained as a second instance of application review. This decision is the result of a study of statistics by both the Asylum Service, the Appeals Authority and the courts. We change the composition of the committees (two judges and one member of the UNHCR) and we foresee three judges.

One-member and three-member configurations are envisaged because it has been shown by the statistics of the courts that the single-member constitution delivers decisions more rapidly.

It is for the first time that if aliens at reception do not comply with their transfer decisions to other structures, they are presumed not to wish for protection and are referred

Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis set the target for the decongation of the islands at two months.  Two programs for vulnerable groups would be launched immediately.

PS The plan is indeed ambitious, especially its decongration part this because no matter how many are relocated to the Greek mainland, it makes no difference to the number of asylum seekers on the islands as long as there are new arrivals on a daily basis.

As long as migration continues, any plan is a bottomless pit.

On Monday 200 vulnerable people were relocated from Moria to accommodation structures on the mainland. Another 110 left Moria last Wednesday and 350 last Friday. 400 people are to be relocated next Sunday.

From Friday midnight to Sunday midnight, a total of 217 people arrived.

Equally highly ambitious is the plan to manage 10,000 returns by 2020, as it presupposes that Turkey is willing to accept them back.

It is not clear whether the funding of the relocation has been in coordination with the EC.

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