Refugees in the cold: The EU hotspot Moria on Lesbos, January 7th, 2017. Photo: Twitter / @GiorgosKosmop. Copyright private / third party.

In an extensive policy paper, the team of Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) in Greece has observed that in numerous cases of refugee deaths at the hotspots on Greek islands, the Greek authorities have undertaken little or no investigation, turning the hotspots into an institutional gray zone.

Sin­ce Novem­ber 2016, a num­ber of peo­p­le resi­ding or pre­sent at hot­spots in Les­vos, Chi­os and Samos have been serious­ly har­med or even kil­led in a series of acci­dents or other tra­gic events. Refu­gee Sup­port Aege­an (RSA) has rese­ar­ched on whe­ther and in what way the aut­ho­ri­ties fol­lo­wed up such cases, iden­ti­fied respon­si­bi­li­ty and impo­sed pen­al­ties if necessary.

Focus on cases of refugee deaths in hotspots

RSA out­lines seve­ral deaths of refu­gees in Greek hot­spots that have been only poor­ly inves­ti­ga­ted or not inves­ti­ga­ted at all, such as the tra­gic death of a woman and a child kil­led after a por­ta­ble coo­king gas sto­ve explo­ded insi­de a tent, set­ting on fire parts of the Moria hot­spot on the island of Les­vos or seve­ral deaths due to win­teriza­ti­on fail­ures on the islands of Les­vos and Samos in Janu­ary 2017.

Poor investigation of fatal incidents

The report shows that the Greek aut­ho­ri­ties are inca­pa­ble of fol­lo­wing up the­se and other fatal inci­dents at hot­spots on the Greek islands. In most ins­tances, inves­ti­ga­ti­ons have been pen­ding for a long peri­od of time or have sim­ply ground to a halt due to admi­nis­tra­ti­ve red tape, acu­te lack of poli­ti­cal will and a com­pli­ca­ted bureau­cra­tic envi­ron­ment that ham­pers the aut­ho­ri­ties’ abili­ty to ins­ti­ga­te such inquiries.

EU’s lack of responsibility

The pre­sence or invol­vement of EU aut­ho­ri­ties on the ground has not hel­ped to impro­ve the con­di­ti­ons for the refu­gees kept in the hot­spots. The report iden­ti­fies serious han­di­caps regar­ding eva­lua­ti­on and plan­ning in rela­ti­on with secu­ri­ty and safe­ty, as well as the absence of stan­dard ope­ra­ti­on pro­ce­du­res for long peri­ods of time.

Conditions remain hazardous

RSA con­cludes that the poor inves­ti­ga­ti­on on behalf of the Greek aut­ho­ri­ties and EU’s lack of respon­si­bi­li­ty for the refu­gees in the hot­spots per­pe­tua­tes the hazar­dous con­di­ti­ons and impu­ni­ty for admi­nis­tra­ti­ve fail­ures, tur­ning hot­spots on the Greek islands into sites within an insti­tu­tio­nal gray zone.

Read the full poli­cy paper »Greek Hot­spots: Deaths Not to Be For­got­ten« here. 

Refu­gee Sup­port Aege­an (RSA) is a non-pro­fit orga­ni­sa­ti­on in sup­port of refu­gees. The RSA team in Athens, on Les­bos and Chi­os moni­tors human rights vio­la­ti­ons and offers legal aid and social sup­port for asyl­um see­kers and refu­gees. RSA is the imple­men­ting part­ner of the Foun­da­ti­on PRO ASYL pro­ject RSPA (Refu­gee Sup­port Pro­gram Aegean).