NEWS

European Asylum Support Office bolsters presence in Greece

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Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos and the executive director of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Nina Gregori, on Tuesday signed an agreement paving the way for the agency to acquire a branch in Greece as part of its efforts to bolster support for the country as it struggles to manage rising numbers of refugees and migrants.

The agreement comes after the EASO recently announced that it would be doubling the number of personnel it has in Greece from 500 to 1,000, while also increasing funding by 30 percent to 36 million euros for 2020.

Greece has promised faster processing of asylum requests of more than 70,000 pending from previous years, to shut five overcrowded refugee camps on its islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers.

EASO staff will be posted to camps on the islands and mainland Greece and will also work with the Greek Asylum Service in a bid to speed up the process of granting refugees protection, while also accelerating deportations and returns.

In comments to journalists in Athens, Gregori described the agreement as a “milestone” that provides the right legal and administrative framework to make the organization more efficient, according to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA).

“(We want) to assure fast and efficient asylum procedures so that people in need of protection they will get one as soon as possible,” Reuters reported Gregori as telling reporters.

Last year, 59,726 migrants and refugees reached Greek shores, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, most of them arriving on Lesvos, Chios or Samos island near Turkey's coasts, Reuters said. [ANA-MPA-Reuters]