NEWS

Bid to ease migrant pressure on islands

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU, ARISTOTELIA PELONI

TAGS: Migration, Diplomacy

With concerns growing about a rising migrant influx and increasing pressure on island reception centers, a new draft bill foreseeing changes to the asylum process is to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Monday while efforts get under way to create space at facilities on the mainland for transfers from the islands. 

Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis on Friday chaired an emergency summit with the country’s 13 regional governors and reportedly asked them to each shoulder part of the burden so that thousands of migrants can gradually be moved out of dangerously overcrowded camps on the eastern Aegean islands.

According to Chrysochoidis there are no plans to create any more large camps. Instead regional authorities are being asked to either expand existing facilities or temporarily rent hotels.

Meanwhile the new draft bill – aimed at tightening up the asylum procedure to ensure that there are no loopholes which can be exploited and that rejected applications are not repeatedly resubmitted – is to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Monday under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

In a speech on Friday at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mitsotakis called for greater burden sharing when it comes to immigration, in a thinly veiled criticism of the failure of some Central and Eastern European states to take in asylum seekers. “We are reaching the limits of our ability to tackle this problem,” he said.

“Greece cannot bear alone the burden of massive movements of people,” he said while speaking of a “European challenge that calls for European action.”

The Greek premier also urged Turkey to respect an agreement with the EU to stem irregular migration flows. He added that the bloc needs to move fast to adopt new common rules for asylum seekers.\

In the same speech, Mitsotakis slammed Turkey’s “gunboat diplomacy,” saying it undermines efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem.

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