The Greek government has begun giving €2,000 to asylum seekers located on various Aegean islands to incentivise them to go back to their home countries.
The Voluntary Return & Reintegration Programme (AVRR), which is funded by the European Union (EU), looks to support asylum seekers who wish to return to their countries. At the same time, it helps the Aegean islands, many of which are overwhelmed with migrants.
The programme was initially rolled out in March but has remained largely inactive due to the border closures caused by the Wuhan coronavirus lockdowns, Greek newspaper Proto Thema reported on Wednesday.
The announcement also coincided with a surge of migrants attempting to cross over into Greece earlier this year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened the gates to Europe for migrants in Turkey.
Over 50,000 Migrants Denied Entry to Greece Since Turkey Opened Border https://t.co/kLXSMw5EDU
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Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, commented on the AVRR programme, saying: “Following the resumption of forced deportations, we aim in the coming weeks to make the first flights of voluntary returns. We are implementing a strict but fair immigration policy, and we aim to decongest both the islands and the whole country from the surge in migration flows in previous years.”
A total of 5,000 asylum seekers are eligible for the €2,000 (£1,800/$2,350) grants with the qualifications including having arrived on the islands of Leros, Samos, Lesbos, Kos, or Chios by the end of last year.
Many Greek islands continue to house migrant numbers far beyond the capacity of the reception centres located on them, particularly in Lesbos where the population of the notorious Moria camp was said to be at least 19,000 in March.
The overpopulation in Moria has also led to many conflicts in the camp, most recently the murder of a 21-year-old Afghani within the residential area of the facility last Sunday. Three Afghan nationals have so far been placed under arrest in connection with the murder.