Refugees seek asylum in Germany as Greece empties camps

Berlin faces 27,500 new applications from people already registered by Athens

One of the few remaining migrant families in a Greek refugee camp in the town of Vathy, on the island of Samos. AFP
Powered by automated translation

As Greece empties its refugee camps, Germany is dealing with more people seeking asylum from authorities in Berlin despite previously being granted protection by Athens.

German officials were dealing with 27,500 asylum claims by the end of August from people who were already registered in Greece.

The number has risen by nearly 4,000 in the past four months, according to Germany’s migration ministry.

Under the EU’s Dublin regulation, asylum seekers should be processed in the European country where they first arrived.

But German courts have blocked deportations to Greece because of fears of inhumane treatment. Activists described poor conditions in the camps and a lack of access to education for migrant children.

A scathing commentary by Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper, said politicians were doing nothing to prevent an influx of people.

“Germany is being tricked when it comes to refugees,” it said. “Greece in particular is systematically emptying its camps at Germany’s expense.”

Elmar Brok, a former conservative MEP, said improvements in Greek camps meant the reasons behind the court rulings no longer stood.

“Germany and Greece are the most affected and we have to look together for a European solution,” he told the newspaper.

The far-right Alternative for Germany weighed in with a condemnation of what it called “asylum tourism” in Europe.

It said that migrants were on safe territory by the time they reached Turkey and had no reason to escape to Greece or Germany.

But Greece’s new EU-funded facilities have been criticised by activists. One camp on the island of Samos is surrounded by barbed-wire fences and entry is strictly supervised and controlled by entry cards and fingerprint checks.

Authorities say a bus will run four times a day between the remote camp and a nearby town.

An older camp in the main town on Samos will be shut down. It was built to house just over 600 people during the 2015 crisis, but quickly became Greece’s most overcrowded camp with about 7,000 people living there.

Greece recently completed a fence on the border with Turkey in an attempt to prevent a refugee crisis caused by the situation in Afghanistan.

Migration minister Notis Mitarachi said last month that Greece was “no longer experiencing an immigration crisis” as numbers dropped.

The number of people living in government-managed facilities was down to 46,000 in July from 86,000 a year earlier, the ministry said. Migrants have been deported or relocated to other EU countries.

“We continue steadily and effectively the implementation of a strict but fair immigration policy, which will not make our country a gateway for smuggling networks,” Mr Mitarachi said.

Europe is dealing with a stand-off on its eastern border after thousands of migrants arrived from Belarus, allegedly egged on by the regime in Minsk.

Updated: September 24, 2021, 10:15 AM