The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has decided to suspend a number of activities at the refugee and asylum seeker so-called 'Hotspot' facillity, Vial, on the island of Chios. "We cannot work independently and safely in a police-run detention facility. Now that it is a detention centre we no longer have adequate access to provide assistance to vulnerable refugees," said Alain Homsy, Head of NRC operations in Greece.
The decision comes after oberserving the practical implications of the 18th March Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey. NRC is suspending most of its work inside the Vial 'Hotspot', including camp management support functions, direct distributions of water, blankets and clothes to refugees and migrants, and maintenance of water and sanitation services. NRC is deeply concerned at the detention of children and other vulnerable groups and considers the overall reception conditions to be inappropriate.
"After an already traumatic experience making the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, refugees, including children, are then detained in increasingly overcrowded conditions and provided with very little information. This is understandably causing great distress. They ask why, and no one can answer them. Is this really the best we can do?" Homsy said.
In order to ensure that refugees are able to exercise their right to seek fair asylum procedures, NRC has decided to continue maintaining an interim protection presence at the Vial 'Hotspot'. All other activities will be handed over to the remaining actors, including the reponsible authoritites.
"What we are seeing is a potential protection crisis unfolding in front of our eyes unless urgent steps are taken to ensure refugees arriving today on Chios are able to access full and fair asylum procedures," said Homsy.
Since 20th March over 1100 refugees and migrants have arrived, yet it appears no contigency arrangements are in place to safely and decently accommodate further arrivals. NRC is concerned that when the capacity is reached, the refugees and migrants will risk being detained in overcrowded, unsafe and undignified conditions for indeterminate periods of time.
"The pace and speed at which this deal has been put into effect has not allowed the Greek authorities adequate time to react to the changes, nor has the extra capacity and support promised from the EU had time to materialize. We are seeing in front of our eyes the real human implications of this," said Homsy.
Download NRC statement here
Tuva Raanes Bogsnes, Head of Media and Communications, NRC +47 932 31 883
You can read more about NRC's activities in Greece here.
Previous press release on the EU-Turkey deal here.
Pictures free of use from Chios here.