Greece’s parliament approved a legislative law on Tuesday that is designed to speed up the asylum process for migrants, ease the overcrowding at Greek island refugee camps and to deport more people back to Turkey, sources said.
Under the new legislation, staff will be added at the office that handles asylum requests, the appeals process for rejected applications will be shortened and travel restrictions can be imposed on asylum-seekers who are moved from the Greek islands to the mainland.
Presently, restrictions on asylum-seekers are mostly limited to five islands near the coast of Turkey, where more than 16,000 people are stuck at the strained refugee camps. Asylum office staff is trying to cope with up to three times more residents than planned.
The number of newly arriving migrants and refugees has risen sharply in 2018 at the islands and Greece’s land border with Turkey, prompting the change in policy. Police cleared out two abandoned factory buildings used by migrants in the city of Patras in western Greece early Tuesday. More than 600 people will be moved from there to refugee camps on the mainland, police said.
Also Tuesday, nine people were injured outside the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki after police pursued a car with an alleged smuggler and 12 suspected migrants crammed inside. The car crashed during the chase, and rescuers had to use hydraulic tools to free the passengers.
The migration crisis has been on the rise in the region during the past few years, with an increase especially in illegal migration through the Balkan countries. In comparison to 2017, the number of migrants entering Croatia this time illegally has increased by two-thirds, as reported by Croatia news earlier.
In 2016, the European Commission estimated that 40% of refugees that had been travelling on the Balkan route have no prospect of gaining asylum in the EU. In 2015 only, sources said that more than 2,000 people died in desperate efforts to reach the EU and the circumstances awaiting them were bad as hell and that they were treated like convicted animals.