The EU has announced a financial incentive of €2,000 to migrants on five Greek islands to voluntarily return to their home countries. The goal of the initiative is to reduce severe overcrowding in migrants camps like Moria. InfoMigrants breaks down the details behind the new scheme.
In the two weeks since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his country was "no longer able to hold refugees" heading across the EU border, the situation on the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea has deteriorated significantly. To help alleviate the tension, Germany and six other EU member states on Thursday announced they would accept at least 1,600 refugee children from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands.
In addition to that, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said the European Commission (EC), the Greek government and the UN migration agency IOM would launch a one-month voluntary return initiative offering eligible migrants €2,000 ($2,250) upon return to their home countries.
InfoMigrants talked to IOM’s Christine Nikolaidou, public information officer in Greece, to find out how migrants on the Greek Aegean islands can participate in the scheme. She noted that the initiative hasn't started yet as "modalities" were still being discussed. Nikolaidou said the initiative is available to three groups:
- third-country nationals who have not yet received a final decision on their asylum request and/or don't have legal documentation
- third-country nationals who have been granted the right to stay, legal residence and/or international protection or temporary protection in Greece
- third-country nationals present in Greece who no longer meet the country's entry or stay prerequisites or whose removal has been postponed
What other factors are important for those who want to participate in the new initiative?
- The scheme is open to everybody who reached the Greek Aegean islands before January 1, 2020
- People from every country can participate except for those from Syria and Yemen
- "Special care" will be provided for beneficiaries who belong to vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied minors
- Possession of legal documentation is not required to participate
- There is no limit in terms of number of available spots - everybody who expresses their will can participate
How does the application process work?
- IOM has AVRR field officers on all five Greek Aegean islands (Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros) who will deal with applications
- Migrants must apply at reception and identification centers at camps like Moria on Lesbos
- Enrollment will be open for one month once the initiative has launched
What happens next?
- The IOM works with the diplomatic authorities of the applicants' home countries to ensure that every required piece of documentation is made available
- Processing the requests will usually take two to three weeks but may vary from country to country
- Beneficiaries will receive €2,000 in cash prior to boarding the plane back home
- The new program will be part of the IOM's current three-year Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) program in Greece, which has helped some 1,600 people return to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Iran and Iraq since September 2019; Nikolaidou spoke of a total number of 17,000 (excluding this new initiative) to be returned by August 2022
- IOM Greece has a website with information on assisted voluntary returns and reintegration, including who can participate; for the time being, rules that apply to AVRR also apply to the new offer
- Leaflets with AVRR information in Greece are available in a dozen languages, including English