Increase in migrants reaching Aegean islands fuels concern

Increase in migrants reaching Aegean islands fuels concern

The influx of would-be migrants into Greece from neighboring Turkey is decisively on the increase following several months during which the flow had been staunched thanks to a European Union deal with Ankara to crack down on people smuggling.

Over the long weekend, 270 migrants arrived on Greek islands in the eastern Aegean while arrivals in the first 20 days of June came to 981.

The renewed influx is putting increased pressure on reception facilities on the islands, which according to local authorities are already full.

Meanwhile, Greek committees are continuing to process hundreds of asylum applications. Greek authorities have rejected dozens of these applications, of which 70 were upheld by appeal committees that ruled Turkey is an “unsafe country” to send migrants back to.

In an apparent bid to curb the number of rulings upholding appeals, the government passed a legislative amendment last week which removes the representative of the Hellenic League for Human Rights from the appeal committees, which feature two judges and a representative of the United Nations refugee agency.

The HLHR rapped the government for changing the composition of the committees instead of applying pressure to ensure that Turkey becomes a safe country to make migrant returns viable.

In a related development the UN revealed on Tuesday that the number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution last year exceeded 60 million for the first time since the organization was founded in 1945.

The tally is greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, said a report released by the UN on Tuesday on World Refugee Day.

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