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U.N. refugee agency expresses concern at Greek asylum plans

U.N. refugee agency expresses concern at Greek asylum plans
FILE PHOTO: Refugees and migrants arrive aboard the Paros Jet passenger ship at the port of Elefsina near Athens, Greece, October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo -
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Costas Baltas(Reuters)
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ATHENS (Reuters) – The United Nations refugees agency UNHCR expressed concern on Thursday about Greek proposals to overhaul laws affecting asylum seekers, saying they could weaken the protection of refugees.

Greece has adopted a tougher stance on migration since the conservative government led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis came to power in July. The country is currently struggling with the biggest resurgence in refugee arrivals since 2015, when more than a million people crossed into Europe.

Greece is proposing to streamline a lengthy asylum process and deport rejected asylum seekers. A draft law is pending in the Greek parliament.

The law would reduce safeguards for people seeking international protection and put more pressure on overstretched administrative and judicial authorities, UNHCR said in a statement.

“The proposed changes will endanger people who need international protection,” said Philippe Leclerc, the UNHCR representative in Greece.

“Greece has the opportunity to adopt a robust law through a genuine and constructive consultation to ensure fair and efficient asylum procedures in the country. This is an objective we are here to support.”

Athens has said it needs to clarify and consolidate rules governing migration and asylum. The present conservative administration has also been critical of the previous leftist government, which it said poorly managed the issue, resulting in thousands of people crammed into overcrowded camps.

UNHCR said that under certain circumstances the right of a person to appeal against rejection of their asylum application is curtailed in such a manner that their rights to an effective legal remedy would be compromised.

More than 12,000 people arrived in Greece in September, the largest number in the three-and-a-half years since the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to seal the Aegean corridor to Europe.

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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