The Minister of Migration Policy Notis Mitarakis has confirmed this Monday morning on the Mega television channel that immigrants who are in Greece, including asylum seekers and refugees, will be vaccinated against COVID-19. Mitarakis has stated that “they will be vaccinated normally, following the age groups, they will be vaccinated. They all have their social security number. ” He took the opportunity to make it clear that “deportations, relocations, and returns – of irregular immigrants – are now more than arrivals, and the policy of open borders has ended.” Because according to official data, migratory flows as of January 1 of this year are very low, the gradual closure of different camps and accommodation structures continues as the asylum process accelerates.
Precisely Mitarakis presented a report to parliament in mid-January that shows how the inflows of irregular immigrants decreased by 80 percent on average last year -87 percent in the Greek islands and 62 percent on the land border with Turkey in the Evros river area in the north of the country. Also of the 106,000 decisions issued by the Asylum Service last year, 33 percent were approvals of refugee status, although it revealed that there are still 80,000 past decisions pending, something that is expected to end this year. And of the refugees and migrants housed in different types of camps and other accommodations across the country, the number fell from 93,000 to 65,000 last year.
Mitarakis has also come to the step these days about the accusations of different NGOs, which have been echoed by members of the European Parliament, about the alleged constant hot returns of embarked immigrants who try to reach Greek things and are “returned” to the Turkish territorial waters, with the suspicion of the complicity of the FRONTEX forces. Both Mitarakis and the Minister of Civil Protection Mijalis Jrisojoidis reject these accusations which they call “fake news” and insist that Greece’s role is to “protect the borders of the European Union, always respecting fundamental rights”
For the Minister of Migration Policy, the migratory situation has improved: in January, only 292 arrivals were registered in the Aegean islands, compared to the 3,714 registered in January of the previous year. And precisely this month of January with 292 arrivals on the islands, 513 departures of migrants were registered, who left them to go to other parts of Greece and many legally to other countries. Special attention has been paid to the 3,300 unaccompanied minors, the majority Afghan boys, who were in the Greek islands and who are gradually traveling to eleven different European countries that host them, such as Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Finland.
At the same time, progress has been made on the issue of legal returns: Turkey has been positive about the Greek request to return 1,450 asylum seekers whose application has finally been rejected by the Hellenic authorities – the legal process having been exhausted – one more step before the European Summit in March. This decision was known after the recent meeting of the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu with the Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas.