Our Projects

Challenging the Externalization of Protection

In 2016, we opened our first office on Chios to address the growing need for legal services for asylum seekers in the overcrowded EU Hotspot Vial. Since then, we have focused on challenging the unlawful living conditions and administrative practices in Vial, and in January 2021 we expanded the project to EU Hotspot Pyli on Kos.

We work to ensure that asylum seekers trapped in the EU Hotspots have access to the rights they are entitled to under EU and Greek law, including housing, medical and social services. We also advocate for clients to be moved from the islands to mainland Greece by applying to the Greek authorities for their transfer or submitting complaints before the European Court of Human Rights.

Since the EU-Turkey statement was signed in March 2016, the claims of thousands of asylum seekers have been rejected on the islands, on the grounds that they can allegedly be safely returned to Turkey. We represent asylum seekers on Chios and Kos at every stage of the asylum and deportation procedure and challenge the administrative malpractices including the misapplication of the safe third country concept with a view to Turkey.

We also report on the inhumane living conditions in the EU hotspots as well as on the illegal practice of rejecting asylum seekers without giving them access to a fair and thorough asylum procedure.

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About this project

Vial Hotspot after Fire Anonymous 2020
Vial Hotspot after Fire Anonymous 2020. Our Visual Policy.

Asylum seekers in the EU have the legal right to adequate living conditions and thorough asylum procedures. Most people in the EU Hotspots, however, are denied these essential rights.

We work to address this severe human rights issue on several fronts. We represent individual asylum seekers at every stage of the asylum procedure to ensure that people have access to just procedures as well as legally granted economic and social rights. We also strategically litigate cases before European and international bodies to strengthen the rights of asylum seekers and refugees at Europe’s external borders, with a focus on conditions in the camps for survivors of gender-based violence, torture, or other forms of violence, and people with serious medical conditions.

Finally, we address the gap in reporting on the smaller islands like Chios and Kos by publishing reports on some of the most pressing issues facing asylum seekers on Chios and Kos, including the conditions in the EU Hotspots during the Covid-19 pandemic and the administrative practices towards Syrians on the islands.

Miltarized Border at Evros Mustafa Nouh 2020
Miltarized Border at Evros Mustafa Nouh 2020. Our Visual Policy
Camp Moria Joern Neumann 2020
Camp Moria Joern Neumann 2020. Our Visual Policy

Since 2016, we have represented over 2500 asylum seekers on Chios and Kos. 

In 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Greek State, in three of our cases, to provide our clients with appropriate living conditions.

In June 2021, Greece established Turkey as a safe country for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria. Our Chios office represented one of the first persons from Somalia subject to this new procedure and successfully argued that Turkey was not a safe country for him. He eventually received refugee status.

We have also published several reports about the islands that have been used by numerous NGOs and lawyers to enforce people’s rights before Greek, European, and international bodies. Inter alia, we issued a report on the living conditions in the EU Hotspot Vial in 2019, we published a report on the living conditions in Vial during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and a report on the mass rejections of Syrian asylum seekers on the Eastern Aegean islands in 2021.

If you do not tolerate the injustice that asylum seekers and refugees face at European borders, donate to our individual legal aid projects.

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