Greece is expected to begin sending refugees back to Turkey from Monday as part of the European Union’s agreement with the neighboring country but there are concerns about the security at the so-called hot spots on the Greek islands, where asylum seekers have been held for the past few weeks.
Nongovernmental organizations withdrew from the centers in the wake of the EU-Turkey agreement as they believe the hot spots have been transformed into detention centers. The NGOs refuse to operate in areas where refugees are being detained.
Their withdrawal and the limited deployment of police and other state officials has allowed tension to grow at the camps. Local officials are concerned that the situation will worsen once the returns begin.
“One day someone came along and fitted a padlock and turned the hot spot from an open facility into a closed one, without the proper infrastructure and security,” Chios Mayor Manolis Vournos told Kathimerini. “Also, no action is being taken to reduce the tension. The state does not understand what its role should be and how serious things are, especially after the NGOs left and there is nobody who knows how to deal with these situations.”
New laws passed through Parliament pave the way for the returns to begin after asylum applications have been processed. The legislation also allows authorities to fast-track asylum appeals so a decision is issued within two weeks.
Vournos pointed out that the hot spots were created with the aim of housing refugees for just a few hours or days at a time, rather than longer. “Since these people are not allowed out, we have asked that at least a canteen, where they can buy coffee or cigarettes, be created.”