With estimates suggesting that it will take at least a year before tens of thousands of refugees and migrants stranded on the Greek mainland have submitted their asylum applications, a large-scale operation was launched last week to speed up the process by pre-registering the applications of people that entered the country from January 1, 2015, until March 19, the day before an EU deal with Turkey to stem their flow went into effect.
The government sees the endeavour as a way to get a full picture of the thousands of people stranded at shelters, centers and camps on the mainland, and to excercise pressure on other European states to accept more refugees as part of a resettlement program as demand increases: so far applications for resettlement are at 5,277, while EU states have agreed to take in 4,468.
The pre-registration operation, backed by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), seeks to officially register the migrants, most of whose temporary permits have expired.
Sources say authorities hope this may help defuse growing tension among frustrated migrants, who remain in legal limbo and feel they have no control over their fate.
“Pre-registration aims to cover the increasing demand for access to international protection from the approximately 49,000 people currently residing in mainland accommodation sites,” the UNHCR and EASO said in a joint statement, along with the European Commission which is financing the project.
“It will offer the possibility to third country nationals in mainland Greece to ask for asylum in the country, for family reunification or relocation to another EU member state,” the statement added.
After being pre-registered, individuals will receive an asylum seeker’s card granting them the right to stay legally in the country and access to basic services.
“It will also assist in mapping the specific needs of the individuals and facilitate access to assistance in the accommodation sites,” the statement read.
The process to pre-register mainland migrants is expected to last until the end of July at six temporary hubs throughout the country with a staff of more than 260 divided into two groups and working six-day week shifts.
The pre-registration will also allow children at camps to attend Greek schools come September.
The latest estimates set the total number of refugees and migrants at more than 57,000 spread across camps and other accommodation centers around the country. The most pressing concern, according to UNHCR representative Philippe Leclerc, is to improve their living conditions and to inform them about their legal options.
Leclerc told Kathimerini in an interview that the UNHCR will provide accommodation to 7,000 refugees and migrants at hotels and apartments by the end of June.