As Greece continues to struggle with an increase in arrivals of undocumented migrants from neighboring Turkey, the European commissioner for migration said on Wednesday that a European Union agreement with Ankara to curb people smuggling is working well but that more effort is needed to accelerate asylum applications.
“The EU-Turkey statement continues to work and deliver results,” Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said. He noted that migrant arrivals in Greece from Turkey have dropped 97 percent since the deal was signed in March last year and that more than 8,800 Syrians in Turkey have been relocated in European countries since then.
However “significant additional efforts” are needed to cut the asylum application backlog and improve processing in Greece so relocations can be accelerated, Avramopoulos said.
His comments came as thousands of migrants sit in overcrowded reception centers on the Aegean islands awaiting the outcome of their applications for asylum.
In a related development, the European Court of Justice rejected legal action by Hungary and Slovakia seeking to avoid accepting refugees under an EU-wide plan. Welcoming the verdict, Avramopoulos warned that those countries could face legal action if they do not live up to their obligations “in coming weeks.”