Hoopster Yiannis Kalambokis, head of the Greek basketball players’ association, helps a boy score at the migrant reception facility in Elaionas near central Athens during a visit by association members, on Monday.
Over 800,000 refugees and migrants entered Greece between the start of the year and the end of November, with the number of arrivals increasing more than tenfold compared to last year’s total of 72,632, data published by the Greek Police showed Monday. The number tallies with figures from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which puts total arrivals in Greece from January 1 to December 24 at 836,672.
The UNHCR also reported that in the three-day period from December 24 to 26, daily arrivals in Greece came to 2,950, with the monthly average at 3,400 per day, a significant drop from November’s average of 5,040. Most arrivals continue to enter Greece via the islands close to Turkey, the main transit point for refugees and migrants fleeing strife in the Middle East and South Asia and trying to enter the European Union. On Lesvos alone, authorities estimate that they continue to receive from 2,000 to 2,500 arrivals every day, down from an average of over 5,000 in November.
Police on the eastern Aegean island on Monday said that more than 3,500 refugees and migrants were waiting to be ferried to the mainland by this afternoon, while at the island’s main registration center in Moria, there are a further 4,000 people waiting to be processed and granted permission to leave for Athens, from where they will continue their journey north.
In the capital, meanwhile, the Asylum Service of the Citizens’ Protection Ministry on Monday published data showing that only 82 of the 449 applications it has submitted so far for the relocation of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea to other parts of the European Union have been successful. The initial plan drawn up by European authorities was for a total of 66,400 refugees to be transferred from Greece to other EU member-states, though only 13 countries have come forward, offering to take in a total of 565 asylum seekers. The repatriations that have been successful have been to Luxembourg, which took in 30 people, Finland (24), Portugal (14), Germany (10) and Lithuania, which accepted four relocations.
The Asylum Service also reported that the number of applications for protection rose by 49 percent in January-November this year compared to last. The majority of the 11,883 applications were submitted by Syrians (3,217) and Afghans (1,672), followed by individuals from Pakistan (1,619), Albania (885), Bangladesh (661) and Iraq (510).
Of these, the authorities said, asylum was granted to 99.9 percent of the Syrian applicants. 61.6 percent of the Afghans and 70.8 percent of the Iraqis, while the latter group showed the biggest spike in requests this year compared to last at 840 percent.
On Sunday, meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble accused Greek authorities of not doing enough to deal with the influx of refugees and migrants, and of ignoring EU regulations requiring that migrants file for asylum in the first country of entry.
“The Greeks should not put the blame for their problems only on others, they should also see how they can do better themselves,” Schaeuble told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.