NEWS

Repatriation attracts migrants

A European Union-subsidized scheme for the voluntary repatriation of undocumented immigrants in Greece, launched earlier this year, has been more popular than anticipated, with more than 1,300 applications submitted, four times the program’s capacity. The program only foresees the repatriation of 450 migrants – at a cost of 1,300 euros per migrant – and more than 300 have already been repatriated, the director of the Greek office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Daniel Esdras, told Kathimerini. But another 1,000 applications or so are outstanding. «We receive a mass of applications every day,» said Esdras, coordinator of the repatriation program. In his opinion, over 15,000 migrants could be repatriated if the funds could be found. Of the 1,305 migrants who have applied for repatriation, the largest group is Afghans (630) followed by Pakistanis (299), Syrians (89), Bangladeshis (55) and Sudanese (40). One Pakistani due to return to Lahore in the next few days told Kathimerini that he was returning because he had been unable to find work in Greece. »I hope I find work in a factory or something. It will be tough but at least I’ll be home,» said Illiaz Mohammed. The IOM is currently financing the repatriation program, as funds have not yet been released by the Citizens’ Protection Ministry. A source at the ministry said yesterday that the disbursement of the funding had been delayed by bureaucracy but would be released in the coming days and that more EU cash was coming. «Due to the unexpected popularity of the scheme, the European Commission told us the funding would be extended,» a ministry source told Kathimerini. In Brussels, a spokesperson for European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom told a meeting of refugees and reporters, organized by Euro MP Stavros Lambrinidis, that the EC would keep pushing Greece to improve procedures for the processing of asylum applications and infrastructure. As for Greece’s request for a change to the Dublin II Regulation, which stipulates that migrants apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, the spokeswoman, Maria Asenius, said that this «would be very difficult.» «Other countries are helping Greece in other ways, by sharing know-how and funding, they will not make concessions on the regulation,» she said.