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….”.

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