Up to 180,000 more migrants could enter Greece if a deal struck between the European Union and Turkey with the aim of limiting the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe collapses, Greek Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said Tuesday.
Speaking during a press conference on the completion of the so-called pre-registration process, Mouzalas said that Athens has asked the EU to speed up the relocation of refugees from Greece to other countries in the bloc, in line with last year’s agreement.
“At the moment we have 7,000 people ready to be relocated but we have yet to receive an response from the member-states,” he said.
EU governments committed to relocate 160,000 individuals from Greece and Italy by September 2017. So far fewer than 4,000 people have been resettled.
According to official data, presented by Mouzalas following the completion of the pre-registration scheme (a process that gives migrants access to the country’s asylum procedure), a total of 27,592 migrants living in camps on the Greek mainland registered between June 9, when the EU-funded scheme was established, and July 30. Fifty-four percent were Syrian, 27 percent Afghan, 13 percent Iraqi, 3 percent Pakistani and 2 percent Palestinian.
Mouzalas admitted that there are an additional 4,000-6,000 individuals who are currently on the move or avoiding registration fearing that doing so would force them to remain in the country.
The leftist minister rebuffed rumors that hundreds of people have been illegally crossing Greece’s northern border on a daily basis.
“If that were the case, there would hardly any refugees left in the country,” he said.
Tuesday’s event was attended by representatives of the organizations that helped carry out the pre-registration process: the director of the Greek Asylum Service Maria Stavropoulou, UNHCR Representative in Greece Philippe Leclerc, and the representative for the European Asylum Support Office, Dimitris Pagidas.
Also Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi arrived in Greece for a three-day visit to assess the humanitarian needs of migrants and refugees. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Wednesday.