NEWS

Government lays out changes to asylum system

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU

Migrants from the Moria camp embrace before boarding a bus to the port of Mytilene from where they will be transferred to the mainland, on the island of Lesvos, Monday.

TAGS: Migration, Politics

Drastic changes to the asylum law are set out in the Citizens’ Protection Ministry bill presented by Michalis Chrysochoidis to the cabinet on Monday which seeks to draw a clear distinction between migrants and refugees.

According to the ministry, the main objective is to create a new asylum system that is rigorous and fair, but also designed to factor in the recent spike in migrant flows to the Greek islands and the fact that the Balkan corridor to the rest of Europe remains closed.

It also seeks to ensure that rejected applications are not repeatedly resubmitted.

The government has insisted that the changes to the law will fully respect the rights of asylum seekers, as stipulated in European Union law, but it will also require asylum applicants to work with national authorities.

More specifically, the law also states that migrants eligible to seek asylum must fulfill certain obligations.

Meanwhile, the government on Monday announced a fresh batch of measures to stem flows, including steps to tighten up border controls, through increased sea patrols.

The coast guard’s increased presence in the eastern Aegean has also prompted an increase of Turkish vessels which have over the last three days intercepted 16 vessels with 631 foreign nationals on board.

Apart from sea patrols, the government said “closed centers” will be built for migrants and rejected asylum seekers who are to be deported.

According to the new law, authorities will also factor in whether the refugee’s country of origin is deemed safe or unsafe for the individual.

Moreover, reception facilities on the islands will be decongested by the transfer of people to the mainland.

The measures were announced amid unrest on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos following a fire in the overcrowded Moria camp which left at least one woman dead on Sunday.

The deadly fire sparked clashes between authorities and refugees, with Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Lefteris Economou telling reporters on Lesvos that “we are really going through a national crisis.”

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