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Europe’s asylum agency expands operations in Greece

Europe’s asylum agency expands operations in Greece

The EU agency for refugees, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said on Tuesday it will double its staff to 1,000 in Greece in the coming months. The move will help the country cope with thousands of migrants and refugees stranded on five islands.

Greece has promised faster processing of asylum requests of more than 70,000 pending from previous years, to shut five overcrowded refugee camps on its islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers.

Rights groups have criticized the conservative government over its new framework to speed up the processing of asylum requests as a “rushed” attempt that would impede access to a fair asylum process for refugees, Reuters said.

Greece, via neighboring Turkey, was the main gateway into the EU for more than a million mainly Middle East and Asian migrants fleeing conflict in 2015-16. Last year, 59,726 migrants and refugees reached Greek shores, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said. Most of them arrived on Lesbos, Chios or Samos island near Turkey’s coasts.