Migration Policy Minister Notis Mitarakis and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on Thursday jointly announced the establishment of a European Union-backed program for the repatriation of 5,000 migrants from Greece.
The aim of the program is to ease pressure on overcrowding state facilities on the Aegean islands, Johansson said following talks with Mitarakis at the Migration Ministry in Athens. Alternate Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos is expected to play a key role in the implementation of the program.
The program is to be a temporary one, giving a month to migrants currently in camps on the islands, and who arrived in Greece before January 1, 2020, to lodge a request with the authorities for their voluntary transfer to their homelands. They will each be given the sum of 2,000 euros.
The repatriations are to be carried out by the authorities in association with the International Organization for Migration and the EU's border monitoring agency Frontex. Johansson underlined the importance of all migrants first being given the right to apply for asylum before they apply for voluntary repatriation.
Mitarakis said that the repatriations would be in addition to the transfer of some 10,000 asylum-seekers from the islands to the mainland during the first quarter.
Johannson said that a priority was the transfer of unaccompanied child migrants to EU member states, seven of which have already made known their intention to host at least 1,600 child refugees.
The commissioner reiterated the EC's support for Greece, adding that she expects a revised framework for migration and asylum replacing the controversial Dublin Regulation before Easter.