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People remain stranded in overcrowded camps in Greece as relocations and transfers slow down. National authorities revoke repatriations

Official figures confirmed that there are currently almost 100,000 asylum applications pending in Greece. The UNHCR released the newest data, that around 120,000 asylum seekers (39,700 people on the islands and 80,300 on the mainland)  are currently stay in Greece. The findings shows that the majority of asylum seekers comes from Afghanistan and Syria.

Women make up about 22% of the population and children 32%. About 12% of children present are unaccompanied or separated, according to the UNHCR. People find accommodation in various reception and migrant camps where living conditions severely diverge from any hygienic standards. From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak all accommodation centres remain under lockdown, but still there is an increase of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among asylum-seekers. The obligatory quarantine has been extended until the end of the August.

Within three month from May to July 2020, first degree asylum decisions increased by 106% compared to the same period of 2019, the data showed. According to the InfoMigrant, the insufficiency of administrative procedures, implicated also by the COVID-19 pandemic, unable stakeholders to face the challange of overcrowded reception camps and only 9,929 people have been transferred to alternative accommodation. From January to July 2020, 21,686 people were moved to the mainland.

Although from the benign of the pandemic some EU leaders declared willingness to relocate 1,600 minors form Greek camps,  procedures are slow. As it is known from the newest data -  on July 24  group of 83 people from families with seriously ill children were transferred from Greece to Germany. Controversial position presented Lithuania,  as the national cabinet of ministers blocked the resettlement of a Syrian family to the country, quoting COVID-19 risks

From August Greece has resumed repatriation flights.  The scheme, funded by the European Union,  had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first contingent of 134 Iraqis leaved Athens on 6th August. 

Kseniya Homel
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs


Aegean Islands Weekly Snapshot 03 - 09 August 2020
Close to 100,000 asylum applications still pending in Greece
Greece begins voluntary repatriation flights
EU relocates vulnerable asylum seekers from Greece, Cyprus
Lithuania: Lithuanian government stops relocation of Syrian family quoting COVID-19