greece migrants refugees.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ARMANDO BABANI

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.

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