Greece posts 80% annual decrease in migrant flows

Government announce sharp fall in figures for 2020

20 January, 15:17

    (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, 19 JANUARY - Greece's government may be coming under fire from all sides on its handling of the ongoing migrant crisis, but the country's Migration Ministry continues to stick to its positive narrative, announcing on Tuesday that it has reduced the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece by 80 percent in 2020.

    That was the key message delivered by Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis, who presented the 25-page annual report in Parliament.

    The document contains data collected by all the agencies involved in handling migration, including the refugee reception and identification centers, and the asylum service.

    And according to the numbers, arrivals fell by 87 percent in the Greek islands, while posting a 62 percent fall in Greece's northeastern border region of Evros.

    "The year of 2020 is one that marks a milestone in immigration, as there was a drastic change and substantial improvement in all sectors; it was a year of regaining control of the immigration crisis," said Mitarakis.

    He added: "We reduced the flows of people trying to enter Greece by 80%, implementing an overall policy with tangible results. We have reduced the migrant population by 28,000 across the country, closing 57 accommodation facilities in 2020, while only three new structures for asylum seekers were created. We are now reducing the effects of the crisis on local communities." The report said that the Asylum Service issued around 106,000 decisions last year, of which 33 percent were refugee status approvals. Even though the undecided asylum cases were reduced by 43 percent in 2020, there are still some 80,000 decisions still pending, as outlined by Mitarakis.

    Mitarakis said that he considered "the prevention of a humanitarian crisis in Moria after the arson incident" to be "a critical step", as well as the way the government handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

    He concluded: "In 2021, we will continue on the same path, with the same determination, aiming at the final confrontation of the immigration crisis in our country.

    Meanwhile, living conditions in many of the migrant camps around the Greek islands has become the hot topic of the media agenda, with images and videos filling social media accounts of humanitarian and human rights organizations operating in the various locations on Lesvos and Chios, among others.

    The biggest facility on Lesvos, the so-called 'tent city' at Kara Tepe was hit by snowstorms over the weekend, where 7,300 people are living in large tents, many of them without a proper floor.

    The camp, which has already been flooded three times during autumn and winter, was struggling to provide a proper power supply to the residents, after one of the facility's generators broke down. Local media said repairs were scheduled for this week.

    The Greek arm of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) lamented the situation in a tweet, saying: "Greece has made progress at the emergency tented camp that replaced Moria, but 7,300 residents are now experiencing grim conditions amid the cold, despite efforts by humanitarian partners to help Greece fill emergency gaps. Long-term solutions like transfers to appropriate shelter, better integration prospects and relocation to other EU states are needed to help the vulnerable." Finally, in related developments, Greece's Coast Guard announced on Tuesday that one man died near Lesvos after jumping out of a vessel as it approached the shore in a remote part of the south coast of the island. Three men who were missing were found, after the boat carrying 24 people was located following a search and rescue operation involving an open sea vessel and a helicopter, as well as two Army speedboats.

    According to local reports, three people jumped into the icy sea before the boat reached the rocky shore.

    Only last month, a woman drowned off the coast of Lesvos in another incident which saw 32 people picked up by the Greek Coast Guard in a rescue operation.

    (ANSAmed). (ANSA).

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