Author: Nikolia Apostolou | thenewhumanitarian.org | 4 November 2019
Nearly 44,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands so far this year, compared to fewer than 32,500 in all of 2018 – an annual increase of more than 30 percent, but still far below 2015 and 2016 levels.
In response, the Greek government passed a new asylum law on Thursday, 31 October aimed at speeding up procedures and facilitating the return of more people to Turkey under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal signed in March 2016 to curb migration across the Aegean.
Greece’s right-wing New Democracy government, which took office in July, argues that faster procedures will allow refugees to integrate more smoothly into Greek society and accelerate the return to Turkey of people whose asylum claims are rejected.
But human rights organisations say the new law will result in major rights violations, making it more difficult for people to access protection, leaving thousands in limbo, and doing nothing to improve the situation for almost 100,000 refugees and migrants in Greece.
Already, tens of thousands of people are living in dismal conditions on the Greek islands, which the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called “explosive” following a recent visit.