Greece's asylum policy has made the headlines as asylum seekers continue to land on islands such as Chios and Samos, How does Greece deal with these asylum seekers and how many in total has the country taken in?
According to the International Rescue Committee, there are currently 62,000 asylum seekers stuck in Greece who are waiting for their asylum claims to be processed. In terms of the number entering Greece, the statistics office of the EU, Eurostat, says 16,500 people put in their asylum applications in first quarter of 2017 alone (this past January through March). In this same time last year, there was a little over 5,000 first time applications in the country.
How to apply?
One of the most common ways is to get an appointment at the Greek Asylum Service through Skype. You then go the asylum service office for an interview. There, you will be asked the reasons why you are seeking asylum in Greece. The office will then accept or reject you asylum application. You have the right to appeal to the asylum office if you are rejected, following which you may be called for another interview.
If you are stuck at a detention center, you can submit an application for international protection at the center and the authorities will inform the Asylum Services to set up an appointment for you. You must remain in Greece while your asylum application is being examined and may not travel away.
Generally, an asylum application will be processed within six months. Due to a backlog of asylum applications in Greece, it may take longer than that.
Who is eligible?
Those eligible for protection in Greece are people who fulfil the conditions of the 1951 Geneva Convention, including those who fled their country due to persecution due to one of the following criteria: belonging to a certain religion or ethnic group, nationality, social group, gender or sexual orientation. Those who may be persecuted for having different political beliefs also fall under the criteria.
Subsidiary protection applies to those who don't fit under the criteria above, but may face other dangers in their home country, such as the death penalty, torture or serious threats to their lives.
EU deals and asylum policy
Greece is currently at the center of two EU deals on refugee policy that are altering the country's position in the crisis. The first is the EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect on March 20, 2016. Under the deal, Greece would send asylum seekers in the country back to Turkey. For every refugee sent to Turkey from Greece, the Turkish government would send a refugee in Turkey to the EU nations.
Another refugee deal that affects Greece is the EU refugee redistribution deal made in September 2015. The goal of the deal is to distribute 120,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other EU nations, but so far, many of Eastern European countries have been reluctant to take part.