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  • Demonstration of African refugees in Athens, Greece, March 16, 2019.

    Demonstration of African refugees in Athens, Greece, March 16, 2019. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 July 2019 (2 hours 39 minutes ago)

Humanitarian organizations supporting migrants fear the right-wing government restrictions on access to asylum.

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis administration announced the shut down of the migration ministry and the transfer of its powers to the Citizen Protection Ministry, an institutional change which has put on alert human rights defenders who fear a hardening in the treatment that the new right-wing government will give migrants.

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According to Natasa Strachini, a lawyer working with Aegean, a NGO supporting refugees a the Chios Island, such change means giving "more than one step back" in a country which has been previously been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) due to its permanent breach of the Asylum Access Law.

Human rights defenders are also concerned about the acceleration of asylum examinations and the return of immigrants to Turkey.

Through these measures, PM Mitsotakis hopes to decongest five islands in which more than 16,000 asylum seekers are confined in camps with an overall capacity to house a maximum of 6,000 people.

"Returning them at any price and without legal guarantees is not what we should be doing in Greece and Europe," Strachini said and commented that the current Greek asylum system is saturated.

The concern for new immigration policies is felt in the streets of Athens and especially in the neighborhood of Exarjia, a place where anarchist militants support migrants in their daily subsistence at the "Squats."

Created in the 2015 European refugee crisis, the squads are occupied buildings used by solidarity networks that seek to create alternatives to mainstream migration policies.

These housing spaces, which are home to thousands of migrants who usually come to Greece from African countries, are "on alert" because Mitsotakis promised to "clean" the neighborhoods during his election campaign.

One of these solidarity shelters was the "City Plaza Hotel", a squat which closed a few days after the change of government, although it had sheltered more than 2,500 migrants for three years.

In the midst of this, the far-right politician and former Vice Minister of Defense Konstandinos Tasulas was elected president of the parliament on Thursday, with 283 votes in favor and 15 blank votes from the Communist lawmakers.​​​​​​​

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