Greece reopening asylum service months after migrants flood Turkey border

Greece's Asylum Service will begin receiving new asylum applications on May 18, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported, after having stopped following an influx of migrants at its northeastern border with Turkey two and a half months ago.

The country’s Migration Ministry is also extending residence permits held by refugees for another six months from their date of expiration, to prevent the service from becoming inundated by renewal applications, Kathimerini said.

The announcement came from the Greek Migration Ministry, which said half of the service’s staff would work from home to maintain social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 1, Greece blocked any new asylum applications after Turkey opened the gates for migrants to travel to the EU, making good on a longstanding threat to let refugees into the continent. 

Turkey hosts more than four million refugees, and had agreed to prevent attempted crossings into Europe following a 2.3-billion euro deal with the EU in 2016.

The move to stop policing the border prompted thousands of migrants to gather at Turkey’s frontier with Greece, where violent clashes erupted between Greek police and migrants. Greek officials in March said they had stopped nearly 10,000 migrants crossing the land border with Turkey.