12, Mar 2018 | CJP Team
Nine human rights and humanitarian groups recently stated that several thousand asylum seekers remain stranded on the Greek island migrant “hotspots”, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Greek government data indicates that more than 10,000 people remain stuck on the Aegean islands of Chios, Kos, Leros, Lesbos, and Samos, where most asylum seekers are being hosted. The organisations, part of the #OpentheIslands campaign, have called on Greece’s government to lift the “containment policy” that results in these asylum seekers being in limbo on these islands, and transfer them to the mainland. The policy was implemented by Greece, supported by the European Commission and other EU member nations, to bar asylum seekers from leaving the islands for the mainland. Greece’s government has also maintained that it is required for the EU-Turkey Statement, which was agreed upon in March 2016, and involved returning all new migrants travelling from Turkey to the Greek islands back to Turkey. Greece’s government has transferred more than 7,000 people from the islands to mainlands as an emergency procedure, which it had pledged to do so in early December 2017. However, more than 5,000 people have reached the islands since December. Asylum seekers are forced to remain in miserable conditions, with the facilities being overcrowded, and tents unable to withstand rain. There is an increased risk of sexual violence and harassment against women and children. The migrants also lack sufficient access to medical care and legal advice, given the limited numbers of doctors and lawyers. Medical staff have said the containment policy has worsened asylum seekers’ psychological condition.