Athens erasing asylum backlog

Athens erasing asylum backlog

Greece has taken a significant step toward restoring the credibility of its asylum system as – according to the latest data from sources within the Migration Policy Ministry – authorities have processed 97.5 percent of a backlog of about 84,000 claims submitted under the old procedure in place before 2011. Progress has been achieved mostly thanks to an amendment to Law 4375/2016.

Adopted in the wake of an EU-Turkey deal aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into Europe, the law introduced a series of changes to the institutional framework.

Now applicants for international protection who lodged a claim more than five years ago, have a pending appeal and possess a valid asylum seeker’s permit are granted a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. The measure affects about 800 cases.

“It’s a fair decision as these people have lived in the country for many years with no final decision on their cases without it being their fault. They have become integrated and grown ties with Greece and the people. Some may have even made a family here,” Maria Stavropoulou, head of the Greek Asylum service, told Kathimerini.

“It would be harsh and unfair to demand after all those years that these people return to their country of origin,” she said.

With the same amendment that was voted in Parliament early last week, individuals with pending appeals under the old system who have not appeared before the Greek authorities to renew their asylum-seeker permit for a minimum of eight months are considered to have implicitly withdrawn their applications – and their claims are thereby discontinued.

As a result, the authorities have closed the books on about 1,800 cases, reducing the backlog further.

Greece has in the past come under fire for its treatment of asylum seekers, which has resulted in its exemption from so-called “Dublin rules” on asylum.

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