Athens Takes Migrant Well-Being Into Its Own Hands
Following the closures of several Balkan countries’ borders to undocumented migrants in 2016, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants, many of whom are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have been stuck in Greece awaiting either formal asylum, deportation or the ability to continue travelling farther toward northern Europe. Greece’s population of undocumented migrants is set to exceed 90,000 by the end of the year, up from around 75,000 now, according to Minister for Migration Policy Dimitris Vitsas. He has stated that the country has the capacity to process only 20,000 applications per year. In 2018, Greece received 67,000 applications. Germany, Hungary and other European countries have also called for asylum seekers in their countries who initially landed in Greece to be returned there for processing.
Asylum seekers and humanitarian groups have expressed concern at the conditions that migrants face in Greece, saying that the country is struggling to provide accommodation and services to those who are already here. The U.N.’s refugee center "continues to call on the Greek government to ease overcrowding and improve conditions and services, including through speeding up of transfers and identifying adequate accommodation," Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesperson for the agency, told Al Jazeera. The openly anti-migrant Golden Dawn party has 16 seats in the Hellenic Parliament, and migrants face rising levels of racist violence. Athens-based Racist Violence Recording Network’s 2018 report documented a 14 percent increase in racist violence in 2018 from 2019, with the total number of documented hate crimes growing from 102 to 117, while the number of attacks targeting refugees and migrants more than doubled.
Vice Mayor on Migrant and Refugee Affairs for the Municipal Council of Athens Lefteris Papagiannakis joins us to discuss Athens’ city government's efforts to accommodate migrants’ needs in the city.
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