In an effort to deal with the increasing number of illegal crossings in recent weeks, the Greek government has said it is recommencing deportations of migrants to Turkey.
The number of migrants crossing illegally from Turkey to Europe has tripled in recent weeks with the number of arrivals to Greece increasing to 278 from 60 a day, worsening the dire conditions in already overcrowded camps on Greek islands.
There were 1,570 arrivals in Greece by sea in the first week of August, compared with 479 in the same period last year, according to data from the Greek authorities and the United Nations’ refugee agency.
Migration Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos has said that 15 asylum-seekers whose applications have been rejected are to be sent back to Turkey from a nearby Greek island.
Koumoutsakos added that 75,000 migrants in Greece were currently having their asylum applications reviewed, including 9,000 whose applications had been rejected but were appealing the decision.
In March 2016, Turkey and the European Union agreed on a deal aimed to curb the crossing of a large number of refugees and migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands
A key provision of the deal was that immigrants arriving on the Greek islands would be returned to Turkey unless they applied for and received asylum in Greece.
A few weeks ago, Ankara announced that the readmission deal with the European Union will no longer be functional as long as the bloc continues to not fulfill its promise of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
“We will not wait at the EU’s door. The readmission agreement and visa-free deal will be put into effect at the same time,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in a television interview, and added that Turkey has decided to suspend its commitments in the deal.
His statement came amid escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over hydrocarbon resources and the EU’s decision to impose punitive measures on Turkey due to Ankara’s increasing efforts for gas drilling off Cyprus.
Meanwhile, a regional court in Germany last month ruled to suspend the transfer of a Syrian national to Greece due to the risk that he would be returned to Turkey, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported last week.
The court said in its decision that Turkey did not sufficiently implement the Geneva Convention, the main international instrument of refugee law. It said Turkey did not grant protection status to all asylum seekers and that it granted Syrian nationals “temporary protection” instead.
Greece is the European Union’s busiest entry point for illegal migration.