Greece’s population of undocumented migrants is set to exceed 90,000 by the end of the year, up from around 75,000 now, Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said on Wednesday, referring to a “unbearable weight.”
Greece has the capacity to process 20,000 asylum applications every year but received 67,000 in 2018, Vitsas said.
“We are the third country in terms of absolute numbers of asylum applications, after Germany and France, and the first country in Europe in proportion to the population,” he said.
Despite the daunting outlook, Vitsas said he was optimistic about the creation of a new relocation program for refugees that could spread the burden across EU member-states.
The Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that migrants should apply for asylum in the first EU state they enter and has led to EU external border states like Greece bearing the brunt of migrant arrivals, is to be revised by the end of the year, he added.
Greece has made several proposals, including the resettlement of refugees directly from Turkey and the contribution of other countries to processing asylum applications, Vitsas said.
He said the number of refugees and migrants on Aegean islands has increased, with 1,485 new arrivals in February compared to 1,139 in the same month last year, with Samos “under particular pressure.”