Refugee, migration flows to Greece shrink by 80 pct in 2020: ministry

A total of 14,848 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece via the Aegean Sea and land border crossings in the north throughout 2020, an 80 percent drop compared to 2019, the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry announced on Tuesday.

A total of 11,304 individuals were relocated or deported in 2020. The number of people hosted in facilities across Greece dropped from 92,383 in December 2019 to 64,756 in December 2020, according to the e-mailed annual report.

Despite the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, overflowing hosting facilities on five islands which have received the bulk of the influx since 2015, were decongested. A total of 33,617 persons were transferred to the mainland in 2020.

Asylum procedures accelerated, with a total of 106,065 decisions issued in 2020, up by 64 percent compared to 2019. Currently 79,888 cases of these were pending an appeal.

The ministry aims to have no pending cases by the end of 2021, Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi told the parliament on Monday evening.

“In 2021 we will continue on the same road, with decisiveness, to address the migrant crisis in our country,” he commented in an e-mailed press release on Tuesday.

More than one million people have reached Greece since 2015 fleeing wars and extreme poverty. Most continued their journey to other European countries until the closure of the borders along the Balkan route in 2016.

Greek, the European Union (EU) and Turkish officials have been arguing for long regarding the effective implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement reached in 2016 in order to stem the influx to Europe.