Since 2015 the Aegean islands have been at the centre of a drawn-out humanitarian crisis. This crisis was created by and has been sustained by policies such as the EU-Turkey agreement, the Dublin Regulation and the Hotspot approach.
At the time of implementation in 2015, the hotspot approach was sold to Europeans as a model of support by EU agencies to Greece and Italy - countries facing increased migratory pressure - to register migrants and aid relocation and returns. It was intended to be a temporary emergency measure.
Initially, the hotspot approach was to be closely connected to the Dublin Regulation, a scheme through which asylum seekers from specific countries would be eligible for swift relocation to other EU states. This system, however, largely failed because too few member states made relocation pledges, the limited number of nationalities eligible for relocation and the change in emphasis on relocation to returns in the hotspots with the introduction of the EU–Turkey agreement in March 2016.
Since then asylum seekers arriving in Europe from Turkey have been trapped for months or even years in the hotspot camps on the Aegean Islands. Living in limbo, awaiting a decision on their asylum claim. For 5 years this approach has produced immense human suffering and widespread human rights violations as tens of thousands of people are forced to live in overcrowded, unsafe and undignified camps.
Check out our Aegean Grassroots Report to learn more about the appalling living conditions in the Aegean hotspot camps and how they affect the lives of those forced to live in them.
This drawn-out humanitarian crisis has also put the local island communities under pressure. Made to shoulder the responsibility of hosting refugees on their small islands with limited resources without having had a say in the matter.
It’s clear that these camps are not the solution the crisis, yet the EU and Greek government are currently building new closed camps on the Aegean islands.