UN chief due in Greece for talks on refugees as new panels set up

UN chief due in Greece for talks on refugees as new panels set up

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due in Athens on Friday for a two-day visit which is to focus on the refugee crisis as Greek authorities redouble their efforts to process asylum applications, setting up new committees to deal with a backlog in claims.

Ban is due to meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Friday before traveling on Saturday to Lesvos, the island that has borne the brunt of an influx of migrants heading toward Western Europe.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to overhaul its asylum processing system, setting up new committees to rule on hundreds of asylum claims being lodged by migrants arriving in Greece.

The reform comes after the current committees upheld the vast majority of appeals by migrants against overturned applications and ruling that Turkey is an “unsafe country” to which to return the migrants.

Dozens of applications are made daily by migrants in Greece as more continue to arrive by boat from Turkey. On Thursday, coast guard officers rescued 60 migrants after their vessel foundered off the coast of Lesvos.

The influx of migrants to Greece had abated after the European Union signed a deal with Turkey to return migrants from Greece to Turkey in March.

But arrivals have picked up in recent weeks as relations between Brussels and Ankara are strained over Turkey’s refusal to improve its anti-terrorism legislation and the EU’s refusal to grant Turks visa-free travel.

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