Greece has submitted a request to the European Commission and the EU’s border agency Frontex, for the immediate return of 1,450 migrants whose asylum requests have been rejected, the country’s Migration Ministry announced on Thursday.
From the 1,450 individuals that entered Greece from Turkey 995 are in Lesvos, 180 in Chios, 128 in Samos and 187 in Kos, the ministry said.
Under the EU-Turkey Statement signed in 2016 to curb migration to Europe, deportations back to Turkey are allowed for migrants whose application for asylum was denied.
In 2020, only 139 returns took place, because Turkey stopped the process on March 15 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Today the conditions for the restarting return procedures towards Turkey are ripe. During the last 10 months, by accelerating the asylum procedures and by implementing extensive testing and anti-Covid-19 health protocols, Greece is ready to safely return migrants who are not entitled to international protection back to Turkey,” the ministry said.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said that “Greece consistently implements a strict but fair migration policy. Giving international protection to those who are entitled to stay, but at the same time returning – with safety and dignity - those who do not meet that criteria.”
“The separation of refugees from economic migrants who have entered Greece illegally is a matter for the Asylum Service and the Appeals Authority. Both have dramatically increased their effectiveness during 2020,” he added.
Mitarakis also called on Turkey to “step up its efforts” under the Joint Statement. “First, to prevent the passage of boats departing from its shores bound for our country and European Union. And second to accept the return of migrants, on the basis of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement, but also, on the basis of existing bilateral readmission agreements.”