ATHENS - Human rights groups including Amnesty International and MSF on Tuesday said a new Greek migration law was "extremely harmful" to vulnerable asylum-seekers.
The groups said the bill currently being debated in Greece's parliament introduces stricter rules for receiving asylum seekers, delays access to the right to work, narrows the definition of family, and imposes more burdens on torture victims in being recognized as such.
Eva Cosse, Greece researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the new law "is a naked attempt to block access to protection and increase deportations" amid increasing arrivals.
Greece has once again become the main point of entry for people seeking asylum in Europe, posing a challenge for the conservative government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis which took over in July.
According to HRW, over 53,000 asylum seekers have reached Greek islands from Turkey this year, compared to 42,000 during the same period in 2018.
Despite regular relocations to the mainland, there are over 34,000 people living in "abysmal" conditions in Greek island camps, HRW said.
Facing a huge backlog of over 70,000 asylum claims, the government has vowed to stiffen its response with stepped-up patrols to deter migrant boats and to send 10,000 people back to Turkey next year.
"Waves of refugees and economic migrants are now besieging European countries," Mitsotakis said earlier this month.
On Tuesday, he said that Greece "cannot shoulder the problems of three continents" in reference to migration.
Eleni Takou, deputy director of civil society group HumanRights360, on Tuesday criticized the conservative government's language on the issue as "toxic", and claimed it incites intolerance.
Last week, residents of the village of Nea Vrasna in northern Greece threw stones at buses carrying nearly 400 migrants, forcing authorities to relocate them hundreds of kilometers (miles) to the south.
The northern Athens suburb of Penteli has also refused to allow a group of unaccompanied minors to settle in an abandoned hospital.