A recent spike in the number of landings of vessels carrying irregular migrants and would-be asylum seekers to a handful of eastern Aegean islands generated a Greek government reaction on Saturday, with a top defense and foreign affairs committee later citing seven decisions, ones mostly aimed at reducing overcrowding in “hotspots” on the islands, accelerating administrative processes for asylum and better patrolling sea borders.
The emphasis, according to a press release issued after members of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense met under the chairmanship of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is to relieve the islands and to restrict further arrivals of irregular migrants “through a better protection of sea borders”.
Beyond transferring a few thousand third country nationals from the islands, especially Lesvos (Mytilene), to the mainland, the government said it would significantly streamline the asylum process and abolish the domestic appeals process for individuals whose requests have been rejected.The goal, according to the press release, is to begin the deportation process, to home countries, for individuals who have not been granted asylum.
In turning to Turkey, where practically all of the seaborne landings of third country nationals has been recorded since 2015, the KYSEA announcement said that “within this framework Turkey must also dutifully assume the responsibilities that correspond to it.”
The top government committee said police checks will be intensified in order to locate third country nationals who illegally entered Greece and whose asylum requests have been rejected, but who have subsequently fled migrant shelters in order to avoid deportation.
The Mitsotakis government also promised to funnel another 50 million euros into surveillance systems used by the coast guard and Greek military for the specific sea regions, as well as to upgrade cooperation with Frontex.