Three years after the Greek authorities implemented with EU support the ‘hotspot approach’ on the islands of the Aegean, the experiment has turned to a nightmare for thousands of newly arriving refugees in search of safety and security. Everything shows that a new model of violent psychological deterrence has been established in Europe for those desperate refugees and migrants reaching Greece’s shores.
The ‘hotspot experiment’ as it stands is based on the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal at any cost and the application of the controversial geographical restriction policy. It has resulted in thousands of protection seekers including those most vulnerable being trapped on the islands. Victims of gender-based violence, victims of torture, pregnant women, babies and unaccompanied children languish in the overcrowded camps of Lesvos, Samos and Chios.
The way the hotspots operate since the implementation of the deal has also led parts of the local island communities to shift towards extreme positions and on several occasions to racist attacks. Still, the European elite considers this model as a success and as a good practice to be implemented in Central European Countries.
‘The inhuman experiment in the Aegean must stop. It is unacceptable that Greece and Europe have created this grey zone of human rights. The systematic violations of refugee rights and the miserable living conditions in the EU hotspots provides a foretaste of what refugees will face in the future ´controlled centres „, said Karl Kopp, PRO ASYL’s Director for Europe.
PRO ASYL and RSA have been monitoring systematically developments in the hotspots through their legal and research work and in today’s publication present the situation as it stands in the five hotspots of the Aegean (Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos). The findings describe the inhumane conditions particularly in the overcrowded camps of Vial, Moria and Vathi; the xenophobic reactions of local communities such as the recent opposition of 1100 parents on Chios to refugee children attending formal education in the island’s schools; a crumbling vulnerability assessment system; and lack or limited access to medical and legal assistance.
The voices of vulnerable and exhausted refugees are the strongest proof of the failure of the ‘hotspot experiment’.
Walaa* is a victim of gender-based violence and lives in Moria. Her words are a stark reminder of the mental impact that the deal has on those most vulnerable: ‘I can’t stand it anymore. Sometimes I am screaming and the neighbors cannot stand me’.
Dina*, a female refugee arrived on Chios with her pre-mature two-week old baby at the end of the summer. Despite the family’s vulnerability, they lived in a rub hall for at least two weeks and shared accommodation with another 100 refugees. Temperatures during that time were unusually high.
Dina* spoke with despair: ‘They told us that there is no other space to stay. Everything is full. We slept on top of blankets on the ground of the large tent. It is unbearable…. I try to find some shadow to sleep outside so my baby does not suffer any longer. It is inhumane…’
Asadi*, a male refugee from Afghanistan with a serious physical disability has been living in a tent in the Olive Grove in Moria camp for the past two months. His tent has no electricity. He told us: ‘” I can hardly move up and down the hill, between olive trees, rocks and tent…Yesterday the storm destroyed my brother’s tent. He has been sleeping rough after that….”.