Migrants wearing protective face masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prepare to board a ferry that will transfer them to the mainland, at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 20, 2020 | Photo:  Reuters/Elias Marcou
Migrants wearing protective face masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prepare to board a ferry that will transfer them to the mainland, at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 20, 2020 | Photo: Reuters/Elias Marcou

The Greek asylum service has resumed receiving asylum applications. Residence permits held by refugees will be extended six months from their date of expiration to prevent the service from becoming overwhelmed by renewal applications.

Greece resumed asylum services on May 18, thereby ending a two-and-a-half month freeze imposed after thousands of migrants sought to enter Greece from Turkey at the beginning of March.

Although the asylum suspension was intended to last only four weeks, lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 had de facto prolonged the freeze by another seven weeks.

The Greek migration ministry had announced last week it would reopen services this Monday. The ministry said that to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, half of the staff would work from home, according to the news platform Ahval.

Refugees' residence permits will be extended

To prevent asylum offices from becoming inundated by renewal applications, the government is also automatically renewing expiring residence permits.

Specifically, this means that all cards of international protection applicants with an expiration date between March 13 and June 30 will be extended by six months. On July 1, offices will resume the regular renewal service. Asylum offices on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Leros, Samos, Chios and Kos are exempt from this and are renewing cards as of May 18.

According to an announcement on the website of the Greek migration ministry, submission of appeals will also resume as of May 18. 

Asylum suspended

On March 1, after Turkey announced it would no longer hold back refugees and migrants hoping to cross into the EU, Greece suspended the processing of new asylum applications. This move was seen as controversial by many; rights group said it was a breach of EU and international law

Turkey's decision to stop policing the border prompted thousands of migrants to gather at Turkey’s border with Greece. Violent clashes broke out between Greek police and migrants. Greek officials in March said they had stopped nearly 10,000 migrants crossing the land border with Turkey.

 

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