Greece reports big fall in asylum seeker numbers

Number of migrants staying on the islands dropping dramatically

17 September, 13:17

    (ANSAmed) - ROMA, 17 SET - Greece's government has reported a huge drop in the number of migrants on the Greek islands compared with a year ago.

    According to data from the ministry of Migration and Asylum, the number of migrants staying at island facilities fell by 81 percent, to 5,264 people in August 2021, versus 27,576 in August last year.

    During the same period, the overall number of migrants who are accommodated in camps across Greece dropped by 49 percent, while in parallel, the number of arrivals on the Aegean islands was down by 78 percent.

    "The numbers reflect the fact that Greece will not be limited to the role of an observer of migration flows. It is not accidental, nor coincidental, that the total number of people living in the country from 82,119 in August 2020, is now 42,181," said Greece's MIgration Minister Notis Mitarakis.

    The largest decrease was recorded on Chios, which reached -89%, followed by Kos and Samos with -88 %. Leros is next with -87% and Lesvos -75%.

    According to the government's August review newsletter, flows in arrivals in the first eight months of 2021 are down by 53% compared to the first eight months of 2020. On the islands in particular, arrivals are down by 78%.

    In terms of numbers, in the first eight months of 2021, 7,841 people left for either Europe or third party countries through the mechanisms of deportation, and return and relocation of third-country nationals.

    In August 2020, a total of 82,119 asylum seekers resided in all the various camps managed or supervised by the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, while now, in August 2021, the number, as pointed out by Mitarakis, is 42,181.

    Also, pending Asylum Service application cases and the Appeals Authority (in A and B grade) recorded a decrease of 48%. The pending applications in A and B grades stand at 50,145, when in August 2020 it was 96,041.

    "We are continuing in an effective way the implementation of a strict but at the same time fair immigration policy, which no longer allows anyone to make Greece a gateway for smuggling networks," MItarakis added.

    "The reduction of 81% of the inhabitants on the islands in August 2021 and by 49% in the whole country, compared to the corresponding month last year, proves that we are moving methodically in the right direction. There is a specific program in place that is being implemented and is bringing us tangible results." "Consequently, Greece today is leaving the immigration crisis behind it. We will continue with consistency so that what we have achieved is not only kept intact, but also a further improvement is recorded every month." These latest figures are in line with the New Democracy government's recent announcements and actions on migration, with the clear focus since they came to power in the summer of 2019 being border protection and transferring asylum seekers off the islands to either the mainland or alternative locations in other EU countries.

    But these policies are certainly not without their critics as well as skeptics.

    Greece is still being accused of ordering so-called pushbacks in the Aegean by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) to name just two, while opposition party SYRIZA, NGO's and Europe's top human rights watchdog the Council of Europe are all consistent;y vocal in their criticism of the current government's perceived "containment" policies and hardline approach.

    Only 24 hours earlier, the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) submitted a set of "Ten Points" to the Greek government to guide the creation of an Independent National Border Monitoring Mechanism in Greece.

    The move comes in response to the Greek government's decision to set up such a system, but also comes at a time when the ruling New Democracy party's policies are coming under criticism because of perceived border militarization following developments in Afghanistan. (ANSAmed).

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