The EU-Turkey Statement is a key element of our collective response to address the challenges generated by the migration crisis. It is our main instrument for returning migrants back to Turkey and thus, stop the flows to Greece and the rest of Europe.
But some important challenges remain. Indeed, the overpopulation problem in the hotspots of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos (due mainly to the growing number of asylum seekers whose applications tend in majority to be manifestly unfounded) endangers the success of the Statement and needs to be tackled urgently. It is important to address the concerns of the local population and curb the adverse reactions already noted in many islands where the situation is difficult. As you can imagine, the creation of closed centers on the islands requires time and does not address the issue in the immediate short run as needed.
It is for that reason that we believe that some of the migrants from countries with low recognition rates who arrived in Greece after the entry into force of the Statement and who were identified and registered in one of the five hotspots in Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, should be temporarily transferred to pre-removal centers in the mainland. Without prejudice to the application of the Statement, all migrants concerned (approximately 100-150 persons per week, migrants with infringing conduct or whose asylum claims are manifestly unfounded, i.e from countries with low recognition rates such as Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria when there is a high risk of absconding) will be moved and kept in closed facilities in order to be returned to Turkey (via the islands) as soon as their asylum claim is rejected (if granted refugee status they will of course remain in Greece). Such an urgent measure will only be short-term until the above-mentioned islands are equipped with the necessary closed structures. Moreover, it could not create any pull factor as migrants will stay in preremoval centers while their applications will be speedily processed. To that end, the Greek Asylum Service will deploy special units within the preremoval centers so that a final asylum decision is taken within three weeks. Temporary transfers from the islands to the mainland will allow us to tackle public order issues on the islands and will surely accelerate the asylum processes.
To ensure the smooth running and the success of the readmission operations to Turkey, all necessary information regarding the migrants about to be returned from the islands will be duly shared with the competent Turkish authorities several days beforehand (personal details, fingerprints, photographs, reference number of the readmission request, etc…).
Your support is requested to make the above mentioned emergency action possible, to help decongest the islands smoothly, effectively and immediately.
Minister of Migration Policy
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