The Greek government has passed a new asylum law aimed at speeding up the asylum procedures and returns of migrants to Turkey.
The 237-page bill, entitled “international protection and other provisions”, has received criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties, who claim the law will severely restrict access to safeguards for asylum seekers.
Introducing the legislation in parliament on late Thursday, Greece’s civil protection minister, Michalis Chrysohoidis, said its aim was to accelerate procedures so refugees could be integrated more smoothly into the Greek community and to make sure migrants whose asylum applications had failed were returned quickly.
“Time is not on our side, as boats are coming from across the Aegean. And with each passing day ever more come,” said the Minister, as he also announced that under the new law asylum requests would be handled within 60 days.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament before the vote that the new bill is set to send a clear message to illegal migrants: “Enough is enough, enough with those people who know that they are not entitled to asylum and yet they attempt to cross into and stay in our country,” he said.
Around 1,000 asylum applicants will be transferred from the Aegean islands to the mainland in the next three days. According to AMNA, refugees will all be distributed to hotels throughout Greece.
Two ships carrying 800 migrants from Lesvos will arrive at Elefsina on Saturday, while another 100 will be transferred from Samos to Piraeus on Sunday. Another 130 asylum applicants will arrive in Piraeus on Monday from Chios, Kos, and Leros islands.