Detention and Reception Conditions
In the past year, Greece has announced plans to convert Reception and Identification Centres (hotspots) into closed controlled facilities on the Eastern Aegean islands, causing intense reactions by the local populations. Increase of detention periods in law and systematic detention of new arrivals are additional features of a persistently problematic asylum detention policy.
Four years after the toxic EU-Turkey “deal” came into effect, the Eastern Aegean islands continue to experience its harmful consequences. Thousands of refugees and migrants continue to find themselves confined in horrible conditions in the five hotspots of Kos, Leros, Samos, Lesvos and Chios. At the same time, the government’s plans to establish closed facilities were faced with protests by the local communities in February 2020, clashes with riot police, as well as reported police violence. This was a novel event in the contemporary history of the islands.
Human Rights Defenders
In light of the refugee crisis of 2015, established non-governmental organisations and groups and many civil society actors, from Greece and abroad, stepped in to provide humanitarian assistance and other needed support, including rescue at sea.
Integration and Social Rights
According to law, after being granted international protection a refugee gains almost the same rights as a Greek citizen. However, in practise they still face significant challenges such as lack of effective national integration programme and persistent barriers and discrimination regarding access to basic social rights.
The implementation of the toxic EU-Turkey deal in the past four years has resulted in endless misery for thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants trapped in the overcrowded and unsafe hotspots of the Eastern Aegean islands. It has also boosted xenophobic and racist reactions in local societies that were initially welcoming to the plight of refugees.
The Dublin System
Following the European Court of Human Rights ruling in M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece in 2011, transfers of asylum-seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation were halted. In December 2016, the European Commission issued a Recommendation for the resumption of Dublin returns to Greece despite the fact that the asylum system was under significant pressure and reception conditions had not sufficiently improved.
Unaccompanied and Separated Children
Unaccompanied and Separated Children (UAC) are among those most vulnerable in the refugee and migrant population in Greece. Many UAC can be held in police cells designed only for short-term stay in degrading conditions. They can also find themselves staying in overcrowded hotspots under unsafe and very poor conditions or living in the streets. Inefficient identification, gaps in age assessment procedures, insufficient appropriate shelters and the lack of an effective guardianship system, further endanger their rights and deprive them from effective protection.
Violation at the borders
Human Rights Violations persist at the land and sea borders. In the past few years, there have been increasing reports of push-backs by Greek border forces and coastguard, deaths linked to the inhuman conditions in the Eastern Aegean hotspots and detrimental reforms in asylum law seeking to speed up returns to Turkey.