Athens parliament to vote on fast-tracking asylum to shift crowds

The Greek parliament is set to vote on a bill aimed at speeding up the country's floundering asylum procedure on Friday, a move aimed at paving the way for the planned return of thousands of migrants to Turkey.

Under a deal struck by the European Union and Ankara this month, any migrants who reached the Greek islands from Turkey from March 20 onwards who do not apply for asylum or fail to qualify will be returned to Turkey.

In practice, this is to apply to the vast majority of arrivals, up to a maximum of 72,000 people, with readmissions to begin on Monday.

However, migrants are entitled to a decision on their asylum bid before they are sent back to Turkey, a major transit country for most of the people striving to reach Europe.

The migration bill was submitted to the parliament in Athens on Thursday, state broadcaster ERT reported.

It is set to bring Greece in line with EU-wide asylum policy by naming Turkey as a safe country of origin, according to a draft that was leaked to Greek media.

Analysts have spoken of a kind of "verbal acrobatics" in the draft, which is said to appease the EU by recognizing Turkey as a legitimate host country - while not fully ratifying its status as a safe haven in a bid to prevent a backlash from the left.

Turkey, which has more than 2 million Syrians living in the country and is the largest host of Syrians, has come under fire recently for human rights abuses and a crackdown on media.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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