Greece is seeking to stem migrant flows from Turkey by declaring the neighboring country as a safe destination for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.
Those five countries are the ones that account for the great majority of migrants trying to cross into Greece from Turkey.
“Declaring Turkey a safe third country is an important step in dealing with illegal migratory flows and the criminal activity of smuggling rackets,” Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Monday, before traveling to Luxembourg on Tuesday for a meeting of the Home Affairs Council, where the new Migration and Asylum Pact is one of the main agenda topics.
The new policy is contained in a joint ministerial decision by the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Migration and Asylum after a recommendation by Greece’s Asylum Service, an announcement by the Migration Ministry said.
The decision recognizes that Turkey satisfies all conditions, such as living standards and human rights, to take on asylum applications from citizens of the above five countries. “It has been proven that they are not endangered in the neighboring country due to ethnicity, religion or being part of a specific social group and can apply for asylum in Turkey instead of Greece,” the joint ministerial decision states.
Thus, any citizens of the above countries who arrive in Greece from Turkey will have their asylum applications rejected and be sent back; until deportation, they will be held in so-called pre-departure detention centers.
Mitarakis added that the decision “absolutely conforms with international law” and it helps fully implement the 2016 deal between the European Union and Turkey that obliges the latter to crack down on smuggling gangs.
According to official data, 31% of those who applied for asylum in Greece in 2020 were from Afghanistan, 20% from Syria, 13% from Turkey, 7% from Somalia and 2% each from Bangladesh and Pakistan.