migrants tents

The Greek government has begun giving €2,000 to asylum seekers located on various Aegean islands, to incentivise them to go back to their home countries.

The Voluntary Return & Reintegration Programme (AVRR), which is funded by the European Union (EU), looks to support asylum seekers who wish to return to their countries. At the same time, it helps the Aegean islands, many of which are overwhelmed.

The programme was initially rolled out in March but has remained largely inactive due to the border closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement also coincided with a surge of migrants attempting to cross over into Greece earlier this year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the gates to Europe for migrants in Turkey.

Greek officials estimated that well over 50,000 migrants attempted to cross into the country before Erdoğan was forced to close the borders due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, commented on the AVRR programme, saying: “Following the resumption of forced deportations, we aim in the coming weeks to make the first flights of voluntary returns. We are implementing a strict but fair immigration policy, and we aim to decongest both the islands and the whole country from the surge in migration flows in previous years.”

A total of 5,000 asylum seekers are eligible for the €2,000 grants with the qualifications including having arrived on the islands of Leros, Samos, Lesvos, Kos or Chios by the end of last year.