ATHENS, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Greece's parliament approved early Friday a bill that would accelerate asylum procedures as part of its efforts to address its refugee and migrant challenges, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.
The bill covers accelerating the assessment process of asylum applications, the repatriation of migrants and the social inclusion of refugees, said Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis during the parliament debate on Thursday.
About 70,000 asylum applications were pending approval and there are thousands of cases of asylum seekers who appeal rejections or submit new requests, dragging the process for five to six years, he noted.
Meanwhile, only 1,800 persons have been returned to Turkey under a deal sealed in 2016 with the European Union (EU) to stem the refugee-migrant influx into Europe via the Aegean Sea, the minister added.
Greece is finally acquiring a functional asylum system, said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The new legislation simplifies and shortens the process for granting asylum to real refugees, he noted.
The bill serves to prioritize cases of vulnerable individuals, all minors and refugee families among others, to whom it grants instant access to health and education services, according to Mitsotakis.
Every application for asylum will henceforth be processed within six months, as opposed to the current nine. Post-traumatic stress disorder is eliminated as a criterion of vulnerability, as it is difficult for doctors to diagnose and many falsely claim to suffer from it, he stressed.
Some opposition parties and non-governmental organizations have expressed concern over provisions regarding the appeal process.