7 July 2019

The centre-right political party New Democracy wins an outright majority in Greek parliamentary elections, campaigning on a law and order and tough on migration platform. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the new prime minister, forms a government on 9 July. 

11 July 2019

The Greek Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs revokes asylum seekers’ access to social security numbers, known as AMKAs, blocking nearly 50,000 from accessing healthcare services except in emergency cases. A replacement scheme to provide asylum seekers with access to healthcare doesn’t come into nearly full effect until February 2021. 

1 November 2019

The Greek parliament passes a new asylum law aimed at speeding up procedures and making it easier to return rejected asylum seekers to Turkey. Human rights groups criticise the law for expanding the grounds for rejecting asylum claims, normalising the use of detention, restricting asylum seekers’ access to legal assistance, and making it harder for rejections to be overturned on appeal. The law takes effect on 1 January 2020.  

1 March 2020

Greece suspends access to asylum in the country for one month. The move is a response to Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement at the end of February that Turkey will no longer prevent asylum seekers and migrants from leaving the country, creating a manufactured refugee crisis at the Greek-Turkish border. 

23 March 2020

Greece goes into a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. The movement of refugees and asylum seekers in camps on the Greek islands and mainland is severely restricted, and asylum services are further suspended. The processing of asylum applications doesn’t begin again until the middle of May, and the camps remain in lockdown even as Greece begins to lift COVID restrictions and allows the return of foreign tourists during the summer. 


22 May 2020

Documented evidence begins to mount showing that Greece is systematically pushing asylum seekers and migrants back from its land and sea borders, including by placing people on inflatable liferafts without motors and leaving them to drift in the Aegean Sea. The policy began in March after Turkey opened its borders. The Greek government denies the pushbacks are taking place. 

1 June 2020

Greece begins evicting around 11,000 recognised refugees from government-supported housing – ostensibly to make room for asylum seekers to be relocated from the islands. Thousands are left temporarily homeless. Recognised refugees were previously able to stay in reception facilities for asylum seekers and continue to receive financial support for six months after being granted protection. That “grace period” is reduced to 30 days, and the Greek government slashes the budget for the support programme by 30 percent. 

29 March 2021

The EU announces it is giving Greece 276 million euros to renovate existing camps and construct new “closed” reception centres for asylum seekers on the Greek islands. The facilities will be surrounded by double military-grade fences, entry and exit will be limited to certain hours, and the facilities will be under high-tech surveillance. The EU and Greece say the facilities will provide more dignified living conditions and greater safety for asylum seekers. The first facility opens on the island of Samos on 18 September. 

4 May 2021

Construction begins on a three-metre-high concrete wall around the Ritsona refugee camp near Athens. The wall is part of a predominantly EU-funded project to enclose more than 30 existing refugee camps on the Greek mainland. Plans for enclosure involve installing magnetic gates, thermographic cameras, X-ray machines, and security cameras at entrances and exits to the facilities, and using drones for surveillance.  

7 June 2021

The Greek government issues a Joint Ministerial Decision declaring Turkey to be a safe third country for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Previously, the designation had only been applied for Syrians. For several years, Afghans have been the top nationality applying for asylum in Greece. The declaration will make it easier for their claims to be rejected and for people to be returned to Turkey. Human rights groups reject labelling Turkey a safe third country for refugees and asylum seekers. 

27 August 2021

The Greek minister of migration and asylum submits a Deportation and Return bill to the Greek parliament for consideration. The bill seeks to accelerate the deportation of migrants and rejected asylum seekers and paves the way for increased use of migration detention. It also imposes fine and prison sentences on search and rescue NGOs carrying out operations without the permission of the Greek Coast Guard. The bill is passed and becomes law on 4 September.