Afghan migrants take part in a protest demanding better living conditions at a reception center near Malakasa, north of Athens, on Wednesday.
Greece’s asylum service on Wednesday launched a new scheme for processing registrations from migrants who want to apply for asylum in the country, a process that could take up to a year for many of the applicants, according to sources.
The “recognition documents” issued to migrants to date will have their validity extended to cover a year.
Many of the documents held by migrants in camps across the country have expired as they apply for six months for Syrians and just one month for all other nationalities.
Once the migrants have been registered, they will be issued with a yellow bracelet bearing their name and other personal details.
The registration document and bracelet will grant each migrant the right to legal residence in Greece and access to free healthcare but will not give them permission to work in Greece which must be sought separately.
The applicants will be informed by SMS about their interview, according to an official of Greece’s asylum service who said the interview could take place several months after their application “due to the large population of refugees in the country.”
The process of registrations began on Wednesday at a makeshift reception center in Elliniko, southern Athens, and Petrino, at the port of Thessaloniki.
Greece’s asylum service, which is overseen by the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, is overseeing the registration process which is being carried out with the support of the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and the European Asylum Support Office.
A total of 260 staff have been employed to work in the project, which aims to accelerate asylum applications while also producing a census of migrants in Greece.
“We will know exactly how many people are being hosted here,” a Greek asylum service official said. “We will know their ethnic origin, how many can join the [European] relocation scheme, how many want to stay in Greece and how many additional children will need to go to school in September,” the official said.
On Wednesday, authorities returned eight migrants to Turkey, five Afghans, two Iranians and an Algerian, in accordance with a European Union deal with Turkey for the return of migrants arriving in Greece.