Greece gets 'disproportionate' number of EU migrant requests

Syrian refugees walk through the mud as they cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, on Sept 10, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece shouldered a "disproportionate burden" of the EU's asylum applications last year, taking 8.5 per cent of the bloc's total requests, the Greek Asylum Service said Friday (Jan 26).

The country of 11 million people recorded 58,661 applications in 2017, putting Greece "in first place among the EU member states when it comes to the proportion of asylum seekers to the inhabitants of the country," the service said in a statement.

Nearly half of Greece's 2017 asylum requests were received on five "hotspot" Aegean islands, the service added.

The Aegean Sea had been the main point of entry to Europe but the flow of migrants has been sharply cut after the EU signed a controversial deal with Turkey in 2016 to send back migrants.

The agreement included measures to limit the number of migrants processed by Greece, however of the 25,814 applications received on the Aegean islands last year, 20,377 were ruled eligible to be moved to the mainland, with 5,437 rejected.

The greatest number of Greece's applicants came from Syria, with 16,396, followed by Pakistan with 8,923, Iraq with 7,924 and Afghanistan with 7,567.

In 2015 the EU, facing one of Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II, pushed through temporary refugee sharing quotas to ease the burden on frontline states like Greece, however several member states - particularly in eastern Europe - oppose the plan.

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