The EU-Turkey deal has trapped thousands of people in abysmal conditions on the Greek islands for the past year, while denying most access to asylum procedures and refugee protection, Human Rights Watch says. This latest assessment of conditions was released ahead of the first anniversary of the agreement, signed on March 18, 2016.
To carry out the deal, the Greek government has adopted a containment policy, keeping asylum seekers stuck on the islands, including in the so-called refugee hotspots and other reception facilities, to facilitate speedy processing and return to Turkey.
But continued arrivals, the mismanagement of aid funding, and the slow pace of decision-making, as well as the positive decisions of Greek appeals committees rejecting summary returns to Turkey as unsafe, have led to overcrowded and abysmal conditions on the Greek islands.
These factors, combined with the Greek authorities’ failure to properly identify vulnerable asylum seekers for transfer to the mainland, have resulted in deteriorating security conditions, unnecessary suffering, and despair.
Greece should resist EU pressure to weaken protections for vulnerable asylum seekers, to expand detention on the islands, to weaken appeal rights, and to send asylum seekers back to Turkey without first determining their protection needs, Human Rights Watch said.