Vitsas sounds alarm over migrant arrivals, asylum

Vitsas sounds alarm over migrant arrivals, asylum

Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas on Friday sounded the alarm about rising migrant numbers on the Aegean islands, adding that the process of approving asylum applications is complicted by the fact that migrants often cannot be traced.

Vitsas said conditions on the islands were “bordering on critical,” particularly at the Moria camp on Lesvos. He blamed the situation on an increased influx from Turkey, saying arrivals were up 50 percent since last year, as well as the closure of borders in the Balkan route.

While 3,300 asylum-seekers crossed into Greece through the Evros border in 2016, that number climbed to 5,500 in 2017 and is at 12,000 this year, he said.

Transfers to the mainland are continuing, Vitsas said, noting that 2,214 were moved last month and another 1,030 people are to be moved next week.

Commenting on the lengthy asylum process, Vitsas said a major problem is that migrants “hide” after lodging their asylum applications due to fear of the outcome.

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