Thousands of asylum applications remain pending even though the influx of undocumented migrants into Greece from neighboring Turkey has plummeted over the past year.
A total of 2,627 migrants landed on the islands of the eastern Aegean from Turkey between January 1 and March 5 this year, according to government data. In the same period last year, that number was 121,426.
However, the reception centers for migrants on those islands remain excessively overcrowded as the majority of the 14,018 people in the facilities have lodged asylum applications. Even those who are not eligible have also applied in a bid to win more time to plan their onward journeys toward western and northern Europe.
According to the head of Greece’s Asylum Service, Maria Stavropoulou, the pace of processing asylum applications has picked up slightly in the past few months after dozens of additional staff were recruited.