At least five closed pre-departure centers will reportedly be created for migrants who are not entitled to asylum in Greece, while the government will seek to ensure the return to Turkey of 10,000 by the end of 2020.
“Those [migrants] that have entered illegally and are not entitled to asylum cannot move around the country uncontrollably and have no other choice but to return [to Turkey],” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Tuesday.
According to reports, these centers will be located on the islands and the mainland and will most likely be former military camps that can accommodate large numbers.
Referring to the migrant and refugee issue, which he described as a matter of “national significance,” Petsas said the immediate aim is to decongest island camps with the transfer of 4,000 refugees to shelters on the mainland by the end of November.
Petsas also took a swipe at the previous, leftist government, saying that it left behind “chaotic situations and anarchy.”
Citing data from 2019, he said there were 68,000 pending asylum applications when the new government came to power and that just 1,806 migrants had been returned to Turkey over four years.
Given the opposition of local communities to the transfers, the plan, which was drafted under the instruction of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, foresees that asylum seekers will not exceed 1 percent of the local population in the regional units they are transferred to.
Petsas described local communities’ opposition to the transfers as partially justified but said he was confident that all Greeks will get on board with the effort to help the country’s islanders.
At the moment regional units in Central Macedonia, northern Greece, and Epirus, northwestern Greece, are hosting asylum seekers whose numbers exceed 1 percent of the local population.
The immediate priority of authorities is to reduce this percentage.
The plan for transfers will be discussed on Wednesday at a ministerial meeting at Maximos Mansion and will be put into effect after it receives Mitsotakis’ approval.