Aegean Grassroots Report
An overview of the humanitarian crisis in the Aegean from the perspective of NGOs and refugees.
Rethinking migration policies
An approach to migration in Europe emphasising deterrence and securing external borders has turned a manageable migration flow to Greece into a humanitarian crisis on the Aegean Islands. This security-focused approach has created vast suffering and even loss of life in the ‘hotspot’ camps where nearly 30,000 people live in deplorable conditions. Human rights violations are a daily reality for all residents of these camps.
The data in this report is based on qualitative input provided by 21 grassroots organisations working with asylum-seekers on the Aegean islands. The organisations were invited to give input in written form to a survey consisting of open-ended questions. Next, this data was compiled with information from additional sources, including relevant reports and articles.
This report aims to provide a broad overview of the humanitarian crisis in the Aegean and offer pragmatic and rights-based solutions based on the expertise of grassroots organisations working with asylum-seekers here. Europe Must Act, on behalf of the grassroots organisations who contributed to this report, urges European leaders and governments to immediately evacuate the Aegean camps and exchange deterrence strategies for a more humane approach which puts the human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers at its core.
Immediate Actions to Provide Relief to the Aegean Camps
Initiating an orderly and humane decongestion of the Aegean camps
The Aegean camps must be completely evacuated and their residents relocated to reception facilities that ensure dignified living conditions.
Recognising grassroots organisations and refugees as essential partners and stakeholders
This report has exemplified the critical roles of grassroots organisations and the refugee community in the provision of essential services and relief. The refugee communities’ efforts to self-organise during the lockdown force us to leave behind the image of the helpless refugee and instead recognise refugees as active stakeholders. Grassroots organisations have also proven themselves highly responsive and attuned to the needs of the communities that they serve.
Increase financial and technical assistance
Although people must be relocated from the Aegean to other European states as soon as possible, a considerable increase of financial and technical assistance to improve the lives of the people living in the camps is urgently required in the meantime. As aforementioned, basic services such as sanitation, healthcare, food, shelter, safety, legal support, education and leisure are all severely lacking.
Recommendations for Structural Changes
Establish safe and legal pathways to Europe
Europe must shift away from increased border control initiatives and fund legal pathways for seeking asylum instead.
Foster solidarity among European states
Solidarity in the form of the physical relocation of asylum-seekers from countries of first arrival to other European states is required.
Increase the role of European cities and municipalities
Cities must be given a greater voice in National and European migration policy making and their efforts in the field of reception and integration must be supported by EU and the Member States‘ governments through funding and expertise.