Jessa Vivio – July 27, 2017
(Athens, Greece) – The Asylum Services of Greece already has plenty on its plate. Since 2013 the service has found itself with over 100,000 asylum applications to process. More than 80% of those 102,000 asylum applications have been received in just the past year and a half. The numbers of refugees seeking Greek asylum skyrocketed when the borders to Europe were cut off.
The flow of refugees to European countries like Germany, France and England slowed to a trickle in March of 2016 when an agreement was reached between the European Union (EU) and Turkey to stop the 10’s of thousands from war-torn countries heading north through Europe. On March 20, 2016 the EU/Turkey agreement went into effect closing off the European borders to migrants. At that moment, some 60,000 refugees still in Greece were stuck there.
The European Council committed to relocating 98,255 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU member states by September 2017.
With only two months left to that target, and 60,000 refugees still left to be processed in Greece, a spokesperson for the Asylum Services says they have begun to be concerned.
“We need more state funds,” said Asylum Services spokesperson Eleni Petraki, “but we can’t hire any more civil servants now because of our austerity measures in Greece, so we have to work with part-timers.”
As of July 2017 Petraki estimates that had at least 10,000 asylum applicants waiting for processing and only 200 case workers.
“Each case worker can process 4 cases a week,” Petraki said, “that means we are processing 800 a week.” At that rate, she says, the process is a slow one.
But there is little else they can do but move ahead with the program, and hope the government finds more money to hire additional staff.
“If the EU’s plan for relocation ends in September, we are obliged to accept them here,” said Petraki referring to refugees now seeking asylum through her agency.
“Many thought Germany is their dreamland”, she said, “and this dream is shrinking.”
So the Greek Asylum Service will continue to help refugees, she said.
“Greece must abide by its international obligations,” Petraki said, “ but it will continue to advocate with its partners to share responsibilities.”