Refugees from Ukraine are being tested for COVID-19 after their arrival in Athens, Greece, on February 28, 2022 | Photo: EPA/GEORGE VITSARAS
Refugees from Ukraine are being tested for COVID-19 after their arrival in Athens, Greece, on February 28, 2022 | Photo: EPA/GEORGE VITSARAS

Greece is determined to take in Ukrainian refugees, according to Greek migration minister Notis Mitarakis. A reported 13,000 people have travelled to Greece from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion so far.

Greece's Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarakis reiterated that his country was willing and prepared to take in more Ukrainian refugees who are fleeing their country due to Russia's ongoing invasion, in a speech to parliament on Tuesday (March 22). "We are ready for the hospitality arrangements. And we are ready to register people and provide them with temporary protection," Mitaraki announced.

"The national reception system has the immediate availability of 15,000 beds", Mitarakis said.

13,000 refugees from Ukraine arrived so far

Miratakis went on to say that Greece has already welcomed a total of 13,000 Ukrainian refugees.

"We have created a reception center in Promachonas, the main entry point; we have created a special entrance lane and have quickly renovated an old building in order to have a proper reception area, with the presence of more medical support, plus hot drinks, food, and a warm welcome," said Mitarakis.

Greece has several hosting structures ready to welcome Ukrainians, the minister said. One in Sintiki, which is a new facility that is used for the first few days for those who arrive from Promachonas, which is only five kilometers from the border.

In addition, Mitarakis said the government had set up the facilities at Elefsina and Serres to host Ukrainians, with 15,000 beds available iinitially, which could be gradually increased, if necessary, to 30,000.

He explained that the ministry would create an electronic pre-registration platform which will be operational starting on March 28 to allow all potential beneficiaries to transfer their basic data and to receive a personalized appointment at the Asylum Service Offices.

He added that the process of issuing a temporary protection ID will start "on April 4 at the Regional Asylum Offices of Thessaloniki, Attica, Patras and Crete."

Pushback accusations against Greece

Though the current Greek government has launched policies to welcome refugees from Ukraine, the same cannot be said for refugees from other world regions and migrants.

Migrant and refugee advocacy groups have repeatedly criticized squalid conditions in Greek reception facilities and Greek police have been accused of carrying out illegal pushbacks in the Aegean, sending migrants and refugees back to Turkey on boats unfit for the sea without allowing them to claim asylum.

Greek officials have denied these claims, but the conservative government has openly talked about its goals to reduce irregular migrant and refugee arrivals.

During his speech to Parliament on Tuesday, Mitarakis praised efforts to prevent border crossings, saying that "while Europe is experiencing a 57% increase in flows of people coming in, Greece has regained control and is not the main gateway." He said that Greece had reduced arrivals from 72,422 in 2019 to 8,745 in 2021, "the lowest flows of the decade."

Mitarakis claimed that his government had achieved "the restoration of control over immigration ...through the drastic confrontation of illegal immigration. ...Now, we are investing in legal immigration, reforming and digitizing everything, and simplifying procedures."

 

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