Greece submitted a request to the European Commission, and to Frontex for the immediate return to Turkey of 1,450 third country citizens who are not entitled to international protection.
From the 1,450 individuals that entered Greece from Turkey - and whose asylum application has conclusively been rejected on appeal - 955 are in Lesvos, 180 in Chios, 128 in Samos and 187 in Kos.
The request for their return is based on the first paragraph of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement, which clearly states that any irregular migrants entering Greece, after the 20th of March 2016, who are not entitled to international protection will be returned to Turkey.
In 2020 only 139 returns took place, because Turkey (since the 15th of March 2020) has stopped the process due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Today the conditions for the restarting return procedures towards Turkey are ripe. During the last 10 months, by accelerating the asylum procedures and by implementing extensive testing and anti-COVID-19 health protocols, Greece is ready to safely return migrants who are not entitled to international protection back to Turkey. By respecting the international law and by applying all necessary health protocols.
Statement by the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr Notis Mitarachi:
«Greece consistently implements a strict but fair migration policy. Giving international protection to those who are entitled to stay, but at the same time returning – with safety and dignity - those who do not meet that criteria. The separation of refugees from economic migrants who have entered Greece illegally is a matter for the Asylum Service and the Appeals Authority. Both have dramatically increased their effectiveness during 2020.
As part of this policy, we have today submitted a request to the European Commission and Frontex, for the return - according to the EU-Turkey Joint Statement - of 1.450 migrants currently in the Eastern Aegean islands. Thanks to new technology and COVID-19 testing procedures introduced during the pandemic it is now possible to process the swift return of migrants who cross the borders of our country irregularly and are not entitled to international protection.
We expect Turkey to step up its efforts under the Joint Statement. First, to prevent the passage of boats departing from its shores bound for our country and European Union. And second to accept the return of migrants, on the basis of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement, but also, on the basis of existing bilateral readmission agreements.
In addition, Europe needs to establish a common mechanism to address this issue within the new Migration and Asylum Pact, as well as implementing the necessary legal and operation mechanism for achieving returns. In doing so it should then be possible to protect those countries at the forefront of this issue against uncontrolled migration flows, whilst allowing for effective action against the organized criminals running the smuggling networks".