Athens, July 1, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Within three years the Asylum Service is operating (on June 10, 2013 was recorded the first application for international protection in the Regional Asylum Office of Attica) has recorded 41,026 applications, 11,371 made by women, 29,655 by men and 1,598 by unaccompanied minors. International protection status was granted at first instance in 6828 cases by the end of May 2016, according to a statement issued by the department.
Indicative of the large increase in applications is the fact that during the first three weeks of its operation in 2013, the Asylum Service had registered 500 applications for international protection, while in the same period this year it registered 3201 applications.
Thus, while in 2013 the Office received on average 688 applications for international protection on a monthly basis, in 2014 786 application, in 2015 1,100 application, in 2016 there is a steady significant increase, resulting in May 2016 having received 4,288 applications. Of these, 2,859 have been deposited on the Aegean islands from March 20, 2016 (ie since the EU-Turkey agreement has been in effect, on the return of those who have entered illegally and can return to Turkey), with 5,919 requests pending since they have not yet been fully recorded.
The Office explains in its statement that “for the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement the Service, together with the European Asylum Support Office (European Asylum Support Office-EASO), develops mixed echelons for the examination of the applications for international protection on the islands, with the participation of experts from other Member States which have the relevant expertise, as well as interpreters, to make the processing of such requests. They have already developed such echelons in Lesbos, Samos and Chios, and then in Leros and Kos. The creation of these echelons include the installation and the technical equipment of dozens of jobs”.
In collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the EASO, the Asylum Service performs a pre-registration program of those in accommodation facilities in the mainland who wish to submit application for international protection after their entrapment in the country since February.
It is estimated that approximately 50,000 applicants will be pre-recorded. The process will reveal how many applicants will be able to relocate to other member states, how many can be brought together with their families in other member states, how many will seek international protection in Greece in order to stay if it is granted to them, and how many will request to return home.
During this process there is identification of unaccompanied minors and of other vulnerable cases, so that in cooperation with other relevant government agencies, to provide special care for them.
Regarding the relocation, which the Service in cooperation with EASO and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is implementing in recent months, and concerns mainly Syrians and Iraqi nationals, until March 19 had departed from Greece 2.191 applicants, while the direct transfer of 1,608 other applicants is pending. It is expected that at least 25,000 more persons will be able to join in this program.
It noted that the work of the Office includes the issuing of residence permits to those granted international protection status, as well as the issuance of travel documents, a revision every three years whether the original reasons for the international protection still apply, the cooperation with Greek Police in public security issues in cases of asylum seekers or beneficiaries, cooperation with the authorities responsible for the housing and care for unaccompanied minors who apply for asylum, and the examination of applications for family reunification.
Within the last three years the management staff of the Office has doubled, and today has 328 employees, a third of whom have been recruited through programs funded by the European Union and European Economic Area.
The Service continues to grow, new offices now operate in all the islands where there are hotspots, and new offices will be created in Heraklion (Crete) and Patra.