The Asylum Service has just completed its third year of operation, since it was on 10 June 2013 that the first claim for international protection was registered in the Attica Regional Asylum Office.
During this three-year period, the Asylum Service has registered 41,026 asylum claims, 11,371 from women, 29,655 from men and 1,598 from unaccompanied minors. By the end of May 2016, international protection had been granted at the first instance in 6,828 cases.
During the first three weeks of its operation, the Asylum Service had registered 500 applications for international protection, while during the same period in 2016 it registered 3,201 applications.
Hence, while in the course of 2013, the Asylum Service was receiving, on a monthly average, 688 claims for international protection, in 2014, this average had risen to 786, in 2015 to 1,100, while in 2016 there is a steady and significant increase with the result that, by May of this year, 4,288 asylum claims have been registered. Of these claims, 2,859 have been submitted on the Aegean islands since 20 March, that is, since the agreement between the EU and Turkey concerning the return of those persons who entered Greek territory in an irregular manner and who can safely return to Turkey. 5,919 claims are still pending on the islands since they have not yet been fully registered.
For the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, the Asylum Service, together with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), is deploying mixed teams of experts, with the requisite professional expertise, as well as interpreters, with the participation of personnel from other EU Member-States. These teams examine and expedite the processing of claims for international protection. Such mixed teams have already been deployed on the islands of Lesvos, Samos and Chios, and others are expected soon on the islands of Leros and Kos. These deployments involve the setting up and equipping of tens of work places on the islands.
The Asylum Service, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and EASO, is currently implementing a project for the pre-registration of all those who are staying in reception facilities in the interior of the country and who wish to apply for international protection following their being stuck in Greece after February of this year. It is estimated that 50,000 asylum seekers will be pre-registered in this way. The procedure will highlight how many asylum seekers it will be possible to relocate to other EU Member-States, how many it will be possible to reunite with their families in other EU Member-States, how many will apply for international protection in Greece and intend to stay here if granted protection, and how many will request to be returned to their countries of origin. The pre-registration procedure also allows for the identification of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable cases. This in turn allows, in cooperation with the competent state authorities, the extension of special care to these persons.
With regards to the relocation programme, which the Asylum Service has been realizing with the assistance of EASO and the International Organization of Migration these past months and which mostly concerns Syrian and Iraqi nationals, 2,191 asylum seekers have departed from Greece while the transfer of an another 1,608 persons is still pending. It is expected that at least an additional 25,000 individuals will be able to be included in the relocation programme.
It should be noted that the Asylum Service’s work includes, among other tasks, the issuing of residence permits and travel documents to the beneficiaries of international protection, the review every three years of the validity of the original reasons for the granting of international protection, the cooperation with the Hellenic Police on matters of public safety in the cases of both asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, the cooperation with the state authorities which are responsible for the housing conditions and care of unaccompanied minors who apply for asylum, and the examination of claims submitted for family reunification.
During the last three years, the staff of the Asylum Service has doubled and now numbers 328 employees. A third of these staff members have been employed through programmes which are funded by the European Union and the European Economic Area.
The Asylum Service continues to grow: new regional asylum offices are now operational on all the islands where hotspots are located and two more are expected to be set up soon on the island of Crete (in Herakleion) and in Patras.
Additional statistical data are provided on the Asylum Service’s webpage (http://asylo.gov.gr/).