International human rights groups on Tuesday criticised the Greek government’s plans to make asylum procedures tougher as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the burden of dealing with an influx of migrants was getting too heavy to bear.

During a news conference held in Athens on Tuesday, groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Doctors Without Borders, said that the proposed changes would restrict the right of refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to seek international protection in the European Union.

“They are putting up obstacles to access the asylum system which is a basic human right. It’s moving to mindset of punishment,” said Gabriel Sakellaridis, head of Amnesty in Greece.

“The changes will lead to the creation of a large group of people who do not have the proper papers. They will be even further marginalized in society.”

The government has proposed new legislation that shortens the asylum process by cutting out some options for appeal and makes it easier to deport those rejected.

But aid groups say the draft legislation would make it easier to detain asylum seekers for longer periods, and includes numerous procedural changes that would impede access to a fair asylum process and compromise the right of appeal.

The proposed changes are due to be voted on in Greece’s parliament this week.

According to recently reported EU data, Greece is now Europe’s busiest entry point with more than 47,500 arrivals this year through Oct. 6, a 29% increase from 2018.

Greece’s PM Mitsotakis said his new government needed to take immediate action to try to ease overcrowding at migrant camps.

“I’ll be honest: Over the past few months, my country has been accepting flows of refugees and migrants that are “Returns of all new irregular migrants from Greece to Turkey under the (agreement) is a continuous challenge. Greece has managed to return only 1,908 migrants under the (agreement), with the pace slowing and around 100 returns this year. This is a major obstacle to progress, also linked to the lengthy asylum procedures currently in place in Greece,” the report said.

*Image by Reuters 


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