The Greek government announced that it will not be reviewing any asylum applications in the short term due to the pandemic.
The announcement was made by Alternate Migration and Asylum Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos on Thursday during his presser, where he stressed that the Asylum Service "which have suspended its operation because of the pandemic” can still not take place as interviews must be conducted in person.
Koumoutsakos clarified that this does not mean the service isn't working at all. "It is reviewing the backlog of thousands of applications that have accumulated and which we have inherited from the previous government."
Additionally, the Minister mentioned that the 181 containers gifted by the Austrian government will be used for the housing, treatment and isolation of any potential coronavirus cases. Of the total, he noted, 40 will be transported to the island of Samos and the new Receiving and Identification Center being prepared there, and the rest will be distributed to islands on a need basis.
In the meantime, Koumoutsakos assured the public of decongestion measures for islands like Lesvos who have carried the burden of the migration crisis, noting that a ferry heading to Piraeus on Thursday evening is carrying 82 asylum seekers from Lesvos island who are exempt from restrictive transfer measures, as they belong to coronavirus vulnerable groups.
They will be forwarded to accommodation facilities in mainland Greece, ahead of another 53 asylum seekers that will be transferred from the NE Aegean island's Moria hotspot to Piraeus on Monday.
Another 139 asylum seekers were transferred to similar facilities in northern Greece last week, while two underage refugees were expected to depart to Athens on Thursday, to be relocated to Luxembourg.
The number of resident refugees at Moria on Thursday dropped below 19,000, against at least 20,000 that have been living in and around the reception and identification center, built to hold a maximum 3,000 people.