Greece and Turkey have a long history of tensions over territory and sovereignty, which could aggravate the situation. “The tension does not help the management of the refugee and migration issue,” the migration minister, Dimitris Vitsas, said on Tuesday. “On the contrary, it creates problems, so it is in our interest and that of Turkey to reduce the tension and the rhetoric.”
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With spring weather improving in Europe, the number of refugees trying to reach European shores has begun to rise again, and dozens arrive each day. That is significantly less, however, than the thousands who crossed the Aegean each day at the peak of the refugee crisis in early 2016.
The 28 countries in the European Union granted asylum to 538,000 people in 2017, almost 25 percent less than in 2016, according to Eurostat, the statistics arm of the organization. Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis made up 64 percent of those granted protection.
More than 60 percent of those granted asylum had applied in Germany, with the next largest numbers of successful applications in France, Italy and Austria. Greece accepted 12,015 applications for asylum last year, Eurostat said.
Gavriil Sakellaridis, the head of Amnesty International’s Greece chapter, said the Greek court decision had created new responsibilities for the government in Athens. “We expect the Greek authorities to respect this decision and transfer asylum seekers reaching the islands to the mainland,” he said on Wednesday.