Following the fire in the Moria hotspot on the Greek island of Lesvos, the rape of an unaccompanied minor at the same site and reports on rising opposition of local politicians and inhabitants towards refugees, the Greek Alternate Minister of Migration announced plans to address the increasingly tense situation on the island.

Moria Hotspot,cc Nonviolent Peaceforce 2016,

Moria Hotspot,cc Nonviolent Peaceforce 2016,

The Minister, Ioannis Mouzalas, has proposed to focus on detecting and separating refugees and migrants involved in criminal activities in the islands from families, to transfer the most vulnerable to the mainland, and to increase policing on the islands. In addition, the outlined plan refers to an increase in EASO staff, staffing of the Appeals Committees with judges in accordance with a recent legislative reform, and a commitment to return 150 people per day to Turkey. According to the Minister, transferring everyone out of the islands is not an option, as this would go against the EU-Turkey deal.

With the rising numbers of arrivals and staff shortages, there are currently 14,581 asylum seekers waiting in closed centres, which are designed to only accommodate 7,450 persons. The transfer of unaccompanied minors, the elderly and sick to the mainland as part of the government strategy was expected to begin this week to alleviate some of this overcrowding.

Amnesty International has this week started campaigning  to stop what would be the first forced return of a Syrian asylum seeker from a Greek island to Turkey, under the EU-Turkey deal. The asylum seeker’s application was declared inadmissible in Greece, both at first instance and on appeal, on the grounds that Turkey is a “safe third country” for him. Several Appeals Committees’ decisions have previously rebutted the “safe third country” presumption regarding Turkey, however the composition of the Committees has recently changed.

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This article will appear in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 7 October 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.