EU-backed repatriations program aim to ease pressure on islands

EU-backed repatriations program aim to ease pressure on islands

EU-backed repatriations program aim to ease pressure on islands 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 to their home countries.

The aim of the program is to ease pressure on overcrowded state facilities on the Aegean islands, Johansson said following talks with Mitarakis at the Migration Ministry in Athens. The scheme was the idea of Alternate Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos, who is expected to play a key role in the program’s implementation.

The program is to be temporary, giving migrants currently in camps on the islands, and who arrived in Greece before January 1, 2020, a month 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, up from the 370 euros migrants had previously been given for the same purpose.

It is thought that the current scheme will be of interest to migrants who have spent a long time in Greek reception centers. However, there is a limit of 5,000 beneficiaries as the budget is 10 million euros.

The repatriations are to be carried out 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 the transfer of unaccompanied child migrants to EU member-states including Germany which have agreed to help host 1,600 child refugees currently in Greek camps was a priority.

Germany has said it will take in up to 1,500 refugees, while Luxembourg, Finland, Britain and France have also expressed an interest.

Separately, it emerged on Thursday that a commercial vessel is to gather a total of 620 migrants who have landed on the islands of Kos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kastellorizo and Symi since March 1, when the government issued a decree prohibiting any further asylum applications. The migrants will be deported. 

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