Migrants are leaving Greece at a much faster pace than they are entering it, according to the newest figures on migration released by the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum on Wednesday.
Departures by asylum seekers and migrants from Greece were double the total number of arrivals during the first five months of 2021.
Migrants leaving Greece
Over the beginning of 2021, 4,951 individuals either left Greece for other European countries or were sent to non-EU countries as per standard deportation and return procedures for third-country nationals.
Speaking on this issue, Notis Mitarachi, the Minister of Migration and Asylum said, “An important part of the National Strategy for Migration 2020-2021 is that of deportations and returns. A new draft bill prepared by the ministry will be released for public consultation within the next few days toward this end.”
Conversely, only 2,981 arrivals were recorded at the most popular entry spots for migrants, namely the Aegean islands and the Evros border. This figure represents a 68 percent decrease when compared with the 9,421 arrivals Greece faced in the first five months of 2020.
The Greek islands, which are scattered in the waters surrounding the country, are currently hosting a total of 10,289 asylum seekers, according to figures recorded on May 31. In comparison with last year’s figures, this is a decrease of 71 percent.
Legal migration through the “Golden Visa,” which allows real estate investors five years of residency in Greece, has proven popular with Chinese nationals. 71 percent of “Golden Visa” recipients are Chinese, and the remaining 29 percent is represented mostly by Turkish individuals (6.2 percent) and Russians (5.5 percent).
Greece accused of pushing migrants back into sea
A lawsuit was filed earlier this year against Greece at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for harsh tactics referred to as “pushbacks” against migrants and refugees looking to enter the country by sea.
The non-governmental organization Legal Center Lesvos is responsible for initiating the case where it accuses authorities of executing sophisticated, coordinated actions at sea that put the lives of migrants and refugees at risk.
The NGO announced they filed the suit with the ECHR on April 12 for a particularly egregious case last year.
In particular, they base their case on an alleged incident that took place off the coast of Crete in October 2020. On October 20, a group of almost 200 refugees traveling on a fishing boat en route to Italy signaled it was in distress when it was met by vessels of the Hellenic Coast Guard.
Individuals who were interviewed about the incident said the authorities ordered them into Greek territorial waters where they were made to wait five hours after being promised aid. Later they said a group of black-clad commandos boarded their ship by surprise, beating several refugees violently and threatening their safety if they attempted to return to Greece.
The entire incident took place across 24 hours and ended with the refugees being left outdoors through the night without food, water or any other kind of aid. They were then ordered into two life boats before being left at sea. Later they were picked up by the Turkish Coast Guard, according to The Guardian.
According to Legal Center Lesvos, this was not an isolated incident and is emblematic of a wider pattern of behavior by the Hellenic Coast Guard.