ATHENS, Greece.- Greek officials say the government will respect a landmark court decision against a European Union policy that allowed authorities to force refugees and migrants to stay on the Greek islands where they first arrived even after they had applied for asylum.
The country's highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled that migrants reaching the Greek islands who apply for asylum will be allowed to travel to the mainland while their applications are being processed. The ruling takes effect immediately. Yiannis Balafas, a deputy migration minister, said the decision is not retroactive but would "create a new situation" for migrants who arrive after the ruling.
Under a 2016 agreement between Turkey and the European Union, migrants who traveled to Greek islands off the Turkish coast were restricted in where they could go after that.
"For sure, this ruling will create a new situation that concerns those who arrive from now on and we will see how it will be addressed," Balafas told Sto Kokkino radio. "I don't think the 2016 agreement will collapse because of this ruling." Asylum applications are currently being received on five Greek islands, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos.