Europe has come under renewed criticism over its treatment of migrants. For years now, thousands of asylum seekers have been living in inhumane conditions in Greece. Five Greek islands near the Turkish coast have become known as “hotspots,” where refugees live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. More than a third are children, mostly without access to education. The EU says Turkey should take them, as part of a deal reached with Ankara five years ago. But many experts say that deal is a human rights disaster. DW’s Max Zander reports on the situation on the island of Lesbos:
While EU Commissioner Ylva Johannsson toured Mavrovouni camp in a guarded convoy, journalists were given a rare opportunity to visit the nicer parts of the overcrowded facility.
Scenes of women exercising in the spring sun starkly contrast these pictures from last winter, when residents had to hold on to their tents, while the sea flooded their homes.
More than 13,000 people are stuck in these hotspots on the North-Aegean Islands, as part of a system designed to help Greece cope with high numbers of irregular arrivals.
As part of the EU’s 2016 migration deal with Turkey, Greek authorities, with EU support, have to examine whether each person arriving has a right to asylum. Those whose claims are rejected must return to Turkey. And as long as asylum seekers don’t have an answer, they can’t leave the islands.
Critics claim this model is simply not working.
Instead of setting up appropriate infrastructure to deal with asylum cases in a swift manner, five years on from when the deal was signed, authorities are operating in emergency mode. Even EU Commissioner Johansson agrees this system has to change.
The EU Commission has proposed a new approach to asylum, under which asylum applications would be processed within days at the bloc’s external borders. But critics fear this might lead to a situation similar to what we’re seeing today; hotspots all over again.