Stranded refugees line up for asylum cards

Stranded refugees line up for asylum cards

Greece aims to register 1,400 people a day in its new asylum access system in a bid to expedite asylum applications by refugees, to relocate them to other EU member-states or reunite them with their families.

The operation, which began last Wednesday, seeks to deal with the some 48,000 migrants – many with expired papers – who got stranded on the Greek mainland after the Balkan route into Europe was closed.

So far, 1,200 people have been “pre-registered” – as the process has been dubbed – in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Pre-registration will grant refugees and migrants the legal right to stay in Greece for one year and access to basic services.

According to the head of Greece’s asylum service, Maria Stavropoulou, “pre-registration” will be “a first step either for relocation to other member-states, or for family reunification, or to apply for international protection in Greece.”

Once they are registered, refugees receive an asylum applicant’s card which means they will get an interview in the next few months with the asylum service.

The program will last for two months and aims to pre-register all applicants that arrived in Greece from January 1 2015 until March 19, 2016, the day before the treaty between the EU and Turkey to stem their flow went into effect.

The process is open to three different groups: those with the right to move to EU countries where they have relatives as part of the family reunion program, those that will be part of the resettlement program (Syrians and Iraqis), and those who want to apply for asylum in Greece.

Stavropoulou also expressed hope that the process will help relieve some of the frustration felt by migrants, who, until now, were in legal limbo and felt that their fate was out of their hands. This way, Stavropoulou said, they will “get a sense that something is in the making.”

Meanwhile, police in northern Greece on Monday evacuated some 1,158 Syrian and Iraqi refugees from a makeshift camp at a gas station in Kilkis, near the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and bused them to a shelter near Thessaloniki. Thirty-four foreign volunteers were detained and later released after apparently encouraging the refugees not to get on the buses but rather to demand that the border be reopened.

The refugees were among the 3,000 still camped at three different sites along the border following last month’s evacuation of the sprawling Idomeni camp.

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