Migrants seek way home, in vain

Hundreds of undocumented immigrants who want to return to their native countries are unable to do so due to the nonabsorption of European Union funding destined for voluntary repatriations, according to representatives of migrant support groups. According to Daniel Esdras, who heads the Greek office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), bureaucracy has hampered the release of EU funds destined for voluntary repatriations for the past three years. «Hundreds of immigrants come to our offices wanting to return to their homelands, either because of family problems or because the political situation in their countries has changed,» Esdras said. «Some are so desperate to go home that they threaten to kill themselves if we don’t help them,» said Esdras, who is to speak on the social integration of immigrants at a conference organized by the Hellenic Red Cross (HRC) in Thessaloniki tomorrow. Most of the migrants eager to return home are Afghan and Iraqi Kurds. «Most of them are children, without papers. We have already managed to send 400 Afghans to Kabul via Dubai,» Esdras said. Red Cross workers in Greece say that Afghans account for more than half (57 percent) of the migrants they tend to, followed by Bulgarians (chiefly Roma), Albanians and Egyptians. According to Zefi Thanassoula, who works for the HRC’s refugee support unit, the rate of migrants applying for asylum in Greece – already extremely low – is dropping further. «Migrants see Greece as a route to another country,» Thanassoula said, noting that most are already aware of the low recognition rate for asylum applications before setting off on their journeys. Earlier this month, a law aimed at boosting the social integration of second-generation immigrants, by giving them right to obtain Greek citizenship and vote in elections, was voted through Parliament despite right-wing opposition.

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