Greece grants asylum to 800 refugees on Lesbos despite migrant deal

Greek authorities have granted asylum to 800 refugees on the island of Lesbos, the Athens daily Kathimerini reported Wednesday, despite an EU deal with Turkey under which people arriving from the country should be sent back.

Under the agreement between the European Union and Ankara, migrants who arrived on the Greek islands after March 20 can have their asylum applications turned down and be returned to Turkey on the basis that it has been deemed a safe country and that they should apply for asylum there.

But many asylum courts in Greece do not consider Turkey a safe third country to which asylum seekers can be returned, according to the Kathimerini report.

Most of those allowed to remain are either sick, under the age of 18, mothers with children, or have relatives living in EU countries to the north.

It was unclear when the asylum seekers arrived or when they were granted asylum. Before the EU-Turkey deal, virtually no migrants passing through Greece sought shelter there, as many aimed to reach wealthier EU countries such as Germany and Sweden.

Around 8,000 people have applied for asylum on the Greek islands. Most of them reside on Lesbos, the main gateway for the thousands of people who arrived from Turkey at the peak of the 2015-16 migration crisis.

The rate of arrivals has been steadily declining since the EU-Turkey deal, dropping to fewer than 50 per day in the first half of June, according to Greek figures.

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

More from Europe

European Parliament elects Antonio Tajani as its next president

The European Parliament elected centre-right Antonio Tajani of Italy as its next president over fellow Italian...

Report: US and EU make "considerable progress" on TTIP negotiations

The European Union and the United States have made "considerable progress" in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade...

Mediterranean death toll exceeds 200 since January 1, IOM says

At least 219 people have died trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in the first weeks of 2017, the...

Estonia, Lithuania sign defence deal with US after Trump bashes NATO

Estonia and Lithuania signed bilateral defence agreements with the US, just days after US-president elect Donald...

German artist fined 700 euros for doing push-ups on church altar

A 38-year-old man was fined 700 euros (750 dollars) by a German court on Tuesday for disrupting the practice of...