A Greek court has ruled Turkey to be an unsafe country, putting at risk a deal between Ankara and Brussels to return failed asylum seekers there. So far, fewer than 500 migrants have been returned under the deal.
A committee of judges ruling on an asylum application on the island of Lesbos have refused to reject the claim of a Syrian national to asylum, a decision which would have seen him deported to Turkey, as say Turkey is “unsafe,” Ekathimerini has reported.
The ruling will cause further delays to the implementation of the deal between Ankara and Brussels, which was to see failed asylum seekers returned in exchange for genuine refugees and handed at least €3 billion to Turkey in EU funding, to be spent on accommodating the migrants.
If the ruling sets a precedent it could bring the whole process juddering to a halt, rendering the agreement worthless.
So far the court at Lesbos has considered 174 asylum cases; 100 of which were granted asylum. The remainder have lodged appeals which prevents the authorities from deporting them. But with the applicants unable to move on, the migrant populations on the Greek islands are growing daily.
On nearby Chios, 99 migrants are arriving daily but only ten asylum applications are being processed per day, leading to a huge backlog of applications. 2,500 migrants are already camped on the island, with authorities saying it will take years to process them all. Local police chief Andreas Damiris has submitted his resignation in response to the crisis.
And on the mainland, chaos has erupted at the Idomeni camp on the Greek / Macedonian border, which this week saw its “worst ever” riot in response to the Greek authorities attempting to move migrants to shelters with running water and electricity. The migrants said they were not interested in the accommodation as they would have to register for asylum in Greece.
Rocks were thrown at police, who responded by firing tear gas.
On Thursday Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas filed a complaint demanding an end to the occupation of railway tracks leading into Macedonia by migrants encamped at Idomeni, and “lawlessness” at the sprawling border camp.
Friday saw 51 failed asylum seekers returned across the Aegean Sea, bringing the total number of migrants returned to just 441 since the program was first implemented in March, according to Associated Press.