How does the asylum procedure actually work in Greece?
(The animated map has two dimensions: the red circles shows the spread of Syrian refugees into neighboring countries since 2011, and the blue circles demonstrate the number of total migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe through the Mediterranean. Image and description courtesy of Buzzfeed News.)
In 2015, the European Commission set up hotspot locations in Italy and Greece in an attempt to address this asymmetric flow of migration. In principle, these hotspots would fast-track the registration of asylum seekers and therefore alleviate the bureaucratic burdens of asylum procedure and help these countries to fulfill their obligations regarding asylum law under EU mandates. In Greece, the hotspots were established as Reception and Identification Centers (RIC) on five islands: Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos.
(Map of the five hotspots via European Commission)
The controversial EU-Turkey Agreement essentially turned these hotspots into closed detention centers, lessening standards of protection and discouraging migration by implementing immediate detention or deportation structures if applicants appeared to not qualify for international protection. Due to widespread international criticism, this closed detention concept was transformed into a geographical restriction on the movement of asylum seekers to RIC facilities and particularly within the islands on which they were processed.