Greece Copes with Stranded Asylum Seekers Ahead of Mass Returns
Greek authorities are moving refugees stranded at the country’s largest port of Piraeus, 7 miles (12 km) from Athens, according to media reports.
Hundreds were bussed to different parts of Greece after spending weeks at the port without shelter.
At least 6,000 asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are stranded at the port, as the E.U.–Turkey deal that involves mass returns of refugees to Turkey is due to begin on Monday.
According to the current terms of the E.U.–Turkey deal, all those who arrived after March 20 will be held in camps and closed facilities and sent back to Turkey.
“There is a major engagement on the part of Greece and Turkey towards sending 500 people back on April 4, barring a last-minute problem,” a European Commission source told AFP. The Greek government has sent additional police and security to different Greek islands to prepare for the returns.
The same AFP report also mentioned that a “readmission center” was being set up near the Turkish coastal town of Dikili in Izmir province for those sent back from Greece.
Meanwhile, Macedonia’s unilateral decision to close its border with Greece has meant that at least 50,000 people are stuck inside Greece with little humanitarian support.
Clashes erupted two days ago between asylum seekers and Greek police at Idomeni, where about 11,500 people are stranded due to the closed Macedonian border.
Greek interior minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis has called the camp a “modern Dachau” in reference to the squalid, overcrowded conditions and lack of basic facilities such as water and sanitation.
Canada Offers to Take In an Additional 10,000 Refugees
While the international community at large has failed to meet the resettlement goals of the latest Geneva Conference, Canada – which has already taken in over 26,000 refugees – offered to resettle another 10,000.
“We are doing everything we can to accommodate the very welcomed desire on the part of Canadians to sponsor refugees,” Canada’s immigration minister John McCallum said to CBC News, ahead of a meeting with German officials in Berlin, the Guardian reported.
Some 26,200 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada by March 28, according to Canadian government reports.
Meanwhile, the U.S. disappointed U.N. agencies and NGOs hoping for a total of 480,000 places for Syrians fleeing conflict by the end of 2018.
The U.S. agreed to resettle 10,000 refugees, a number that advocacy agencies call “paltry” given the scale of the Syrian refugee crisis and the number of refugees that Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are currently hosting.
“It is disappointing to see the Obama Administration miss yet another opportunity to lead by example. Successfully addressing this global refugee crisis, the largest since World War II, demands strong leadership from the United States,” said Eleanor Acer, director and refugee expert at Human Rights First.
The U.S.-based advocacy group also mentioned that so far the U.S. has resettled only 955 out of the 10,000 Syrians it had promised to take in by September of last year.
Some Iraqi Refugees Return to Their Homes
A “growing number” of refugees from Iraq are returning to their home communities after years of attempting to restart their lives in Germany, according to a report by Time.
The report said that many Iraqi refugees paid large sums of money to smugglers and traveled by sea from Turkey with their families, including children, only to discover that life in Germany was nothing like they had imagined.
“Bad food and life in cramped quarters with other families from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan,” forced some to return to Iraq.
Earlier reports confirm the recent trend of Iraqis returning home.
“The number of people applying for repatriation with the IOM began to grow, from 100 people a month since the start of the year to 350 in September, 761 in October and 831 in January 2016,” the IOM told AP.
IOM helped more than 1,000 Iraqi migrants “voluntarily return” from Europe in February alone, according the Time report.
More than 80,000 Iraqis entered Greece over 2015. About 5,000 have been repatriated by IOM since last year.
- VOA News: Trapped and Abandoned: Refugees Lament Plight at Closed Border
- E.U. Observer: Turkey Accused of Crimes Against Refugees, as E.U. Returns Begin
- ABC News: Syria Refugees Beg for a Living on Beirut Streets
- The Washington Post: Unhappy in Europe, Some Iraqis Return Home
- Global News: Greece Could Soon Start Deporting Refugees
Top image: A migrant boy walks through a puddle in a makeshift refugee camp at the northern Greek border point of Idomeni, Greece. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)