On Chios, we provide legal aid to asylum seekers in the EU Hotspot Vial.
We address the violation of fundamental rights of asylum seekers staying in the EU Hotspots by providing legal support to asylum seekers on the ground, and at the same time raising awareness in Germany and on an EU level.
The EU Hotspot Approach was introduced by the European Commission in May 2015. When the EU-Turkey Statement entered into force on 20 March 2016, it completely overhauled the political purpose of the EU Hotspots in Greece. Since then, the main purpose of the hotspots has been to implement a return policy to Turkey. Under the scheme, asylum seeker’s freedom of movement is restricted to the island they arrive on. This has had severe repercussions for reception conditions and asylum procedures in the EU Hotspots. Reception conditions in the overcrowded hotspots remain dire. The situation is unacceptable from a humanitarian perspective.
Our legal aid services in Chios focus on counseling in the first instance procedure as well as on family reunification under the Dublin III Regulation. This includes informing asylum seekers about the hotspot procedure and the EU Turkey Deal, and providing legal assistance with their asylum procedure. We also regularly take on appeals against first instance rejections.
Asylum seekers who are eligible for family reunification under the Dublin III Regulation are exempted from the border procedure and therefore not subject to a possible return to Turkey. Our presence on Chios allows us to identify these cases as soon as possible and to refer them to the procedure for family reunification. We assist in the whole Dublin procedure from the take charge request to the transfer. If necessary, we file interim measures to administrative courts in Germany in order to enforce the legally granted rights of families.
The Situation in Vial - Inhumane Conditions
The EU Hotspot VIAL is a refugee camp and also a management and reception complex. The center is located in a decommissioned aluminum factory and is still partly used as a waste separation and recycling facility. Vial was designed to accommodate around 1,000 people. However at present, about 5,000 people reside in the camp. Most live in tents or lightly secured containers. Many people also also occupy makeshift structures, leaving them entirely exposed to the elements other residents of the camp. The camp's capacity is wholly inadequate.
Responding to COVID-19
COVID-19 presents unique challenges for refugees and asylum seekers. For those living in the Vial Hotspot, basic protective measures such as social distancing and frequent hand washing are simply inaccessible.
The pandemic poses the gravest threat to Vial’s most vulnerable residents. We have been working to address this crisis by filing cases in front of the European Court of Human Rights requesting that the state transfer particularly vulnerable residents to appropriate accommodation. A list of those cases can be found here.
A recent report we wrote concluded that Vial is not prepared for a COVID-19 outbreak. Critical shortages of water, sanitary facilities, and medical services remain; elderly and immunocompromised individuals continue to live in the camp without proper areas to isolate, and overcrowding makes social distancing impossible. The full report on conditions in Vial during COVID-19 can be found here.
In November 2020, we updated the report that can be found here.
Equal Rights Beyond Borders Chios Office
Mitropolitou Polikarpou 1
821 00 Chios
Business Card with contact details