More than 8,000 undocumented migrants repatriated in less than a year

A total of 8,050 migrants have returned in the past 11 months to their native countries from Greece via a voluntary repatriation program, according to figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as Greek authorities urged the European Union to share more of the burden of clandestine immigration into the bloc.

During a conference by the intergovernmental organization in Athens on Wednesday, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said that Greek authorities aim at raising the number of voluntary as well as forced repatriations to 25,000 by the end of 2013.

He said the ministry planned to sign an agreement to extend the IOM-run program on Thursday.

“The IOM will remain our strategic partner in the years to come so we can deal with a problem that cannot be solved overnight,” Dendias said.

Dendias, who kept his post during a recent government reshuffle, urged the EU to do more to help Greece, the major gateway of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Asia, to combat irregular immigration.

Authorities say Greece needs about 500 million euros a year to combat the flows. But only 170 million came from EU funds, Dendias said, calling for a revision of Europe’s Dublin II regulations that he described as “unfair” and “counter-productive.”

According to EU rules, asylum applications must be reviewed by the country where migrants first arrive.

In the sixth year of recession, Greece has more illegal immigrants than any other country in the bloc.