For the first time in months, Greece has sent several rejected asylum seekers back to Turkey in recent days. This was announced by the Deputy Prime Minister of Greece Adonis Georgiadis. "We send back about 30 migrants a day. Turkey has taken them in," Georgiadis told the Athens news channel Real. Athens is thus implementing a new law from January 1 that will speed up asylum procedures. Repatriations to Turkey had almost ceased in the past few months due to a lack of staff.
Crucial point of the new asylum law: If you want to go to the second level after rejecting your first asylum application, you have to justify this with a legal opinion. So far, migrants have been able to express their wishes with a simple pre-printed application, thereby delaying their deportation by months, in some cases by years. Humanitarian organizations criticize this attitude of Greece.
The refugee pact between the EU and Turkey provides that the EU can send back all refugees and migrants who illegally come to the Greek islands via Turkey. The camps on the islands remain completely overcrowded despite the repatriations and the accommodation of many migrants in accommodations on the mainland.
1,283 people died fleeing across the Mediterranean in 2019
Meanwhile, almost 500 refugees rescued in the Mediterranean are hoping to find a safe haven in Italy or Malta on board two rescue ships. The majority of those rescued are on board the Ocean Viking ship, which is operated by the aid organization SOS Méditerranée together with MSF. 407 people were taken on board in various rescue operations in the Mediterranean, MSF reported on Twitter. 78 other refugees were on board the German rescue ship Alan Kurdi from the aid organization Sea-Eye.
MSF coordinator Aloys Vimard said there have been a number of rescue operations for refugees in the Mediterranean over the weekend and at night. "Despite the winter and bad weather, many boats leave Libya." He added: "The survivors tell us that the security situation in Libya is deteriorating because of the conflict." Most recently, the Ocean Viking rescued 184 men, women and children on Monday night from two rubber dinghies in distress.
Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) counted 1,283 deaths in attempts by refugees to get to Europe via the Mediterranean. Most died on the way from North Africa to Italy. In total, at least 19,164 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in the past five years.