The Greek parliament has passed in principle a draft bill on new rules for granting asylum to migrants and refugees, aimed at speeding up the lengthy process.
Following a lengthy debate on Tuesday evening the bill was approved with the votes of ruling coalition partners SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks (ANEL), along with centrist Potami (River) party.
Main opposition New Democracy, the Communists and ultra-right Golden Dawn voted against.
Addressing lawmakers before the vote, Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas acknowledged that the bill “will not magically solve the refugee and migration issue” but said the government wanted to reduce the wait for thousands of asylum seekers.
Under the new law, staff will be added at the office that handles asylum requests, the appeals process for rejected applications will be shortened and travel restrictions can be imposed on asylum-seekers who are moved from the Greek islands to the mainland.
Currently, restrictions on asylum-seekers are mostly limited to five islands near the coast of Turkey, where strained refugee camps are trying to cope with up to three times more arrivals than planned. More than 16,000 people are stuck there.
A group of 13 Greek human rights organizations, however, has accused the government of ignoring refugee rights.