Greece says it is restarting deportations of migrants to Turkey in an effort to deal with the increasing number of illegal crossings in recent weeks, the Associated Press reported on Friday.
The number of migrants crossing illegally from Turkey to Europe has tripled in recent weeks with the number of arrivals to Greece increasing to 278 from 60 a day, The Times reported on Wednesday.
There were 1,570 arrivals in Greece by sea in the first week of August, compared with 479 in the same period last year, the newspaper said, citing data from Athens and the United Nations’ refugee agency.
Some 15 asylum-seekers whose applications have been rejected are to be sent back to Turkey from a nearby Greek island, the AP quoted Giorgos Koumoutsakos, a minister in charge of migration policy, as saying on Friday during a television program.
The minister told private Skai television that 75,000 migrants in Greece were currently having their asylum applications reviewed, including 9,000 whose applications had been rejected but were appealing the decision.
Many of the 50 refugee camps in Greece are squalid, overcrowded, rife with disease and home to unaccompanied minors, according to The Times.
Turkey and the EU agreed on a refugee deal in 2016 to cut the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. A key provision of the deal was that immigrants arriving on Greek islands would be returned to Turkey unless they applied for and received asylum in Greece.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu last month said that Turkey would cancel the readmission deal with the EU, if the bloc failed to deliver on its promise of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. His statement came amid escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over hydrocarbon resources and the EU’s decision to impose punitive measures on Turkey due to Ankara’s increasing efforts for gas drilling off Cyprus.
Meanwhile, a regional court in Germany last month ruled to suspend the transfer of a Syrian national to Greece due to the risk that he would be returned to Turkey, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported last week.
The court said Turkey did not sufficiently implement the Geneva Convention, the main international instrument of refugee law. It said Turkey did not grant protection status to all asylum seekers and that it granted Syrian nationals “temporary protection” instead.