Fears are rising about the possible breakdown of a deal between the European Union and Turkey for the return of migrants after legal committees in Greece upheld dozens of appeals by refugees against their deportation.
By late Monday, Greek appeals committees had ruled in favor of 35 refugees, ruling that Turkey is “an unsafe country.” Only two rulings overturned appeals by refugees against their deportation.
On Tuesday a crowd of refugees blocked the container terminal at the port of Thessaoniki to protest the slow pace at which asylum applications are being processed.
Hundreds of applications are pending and there are fears that they too will result in rulings in favor of refugees, undercutting a deal signed between Ankara and Brussels in March to return migrants to Turkey.
Meanwhile there are also concerns about a pickup in arrivals from neighboring Turkey.
For several weeks, a crackdown by Turkish authorities on smugglers had all but stopped the migrant influx. Now that ties between Turkey and the EU are strained over the former’s refusal to reform terrorism laws and its insistence that Turks be granted visa-free access to the bloc, more migrants have started arriving in Greece from Turkey.
The total number of refugees in Greece is 57,458, according to government figures made public on Tuesday.
The figure includes 5,700 people in rented accommodation arranged by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
The remainder of the migrants are living in makeshift camps or state-run facilities on the Aegean islands or mainland Greece.
In some areas, tensions have been rising. On Tuesday suspected far-right protesters attacked a group of migrants near a state-run camp on Chios.
On Lesvos and Samos, brawls between groups of migrants have escalated in recent days, with protesters setting fire to bedding and tents in camps.
Many of the protesters have been in the camps for weeks, awaiting the outcome of applications for asylum or deportation.