The Refugee Law Clinics in Chios

Situation on Chios

Chios is one of the East Aegean islands where EU hotspots have been established. Hotspots are centers or camps near the border where major parts of the asylum procedure are carried out by national authorities with support of EU agencies. This entails the prohibition to enter the mainland.

The EU Turkey Deal aims at deporting all third country nationals who arrived in Greece after the 20th March back to Turkey – if they did not apply for asylum or if their application is inadmissible or unfounded. The concept of the deal is to consider Turkey as safe third country or first country of asylum which leads to the inadmissibility of an application for asylum lodged in Greece. This is a violation of European and Greek asylum and human rights law.

The Greek hotspots are used to implement EU Turkey Deal: Migrants are not allowed to leave the island. Every person has to be interviewed in order to determine whether he or she can be deported to Turkey. This is the so-called admissibility interview. The administrative process is advancing extremely slow since both the Greek Asylum Service and the European Asylum Support Office are seriously understaffed. Most of the people staying on Chios have not been interviewed yet.

Currently, there are about 2500 applicants for international protection (refugees) on Chios. The maximum capacity of the official hotspot camp Vial—a container village the center of which is a former waste factory—is 1100 people, and there are two unofficial camps: Souda and Depethe. Living conditions in the camps are anything but decent. The lack of security is another major concern.

Refugees shall have access to legal information and aid at every stage of the procedure according to European and Greek asylum law. Currently, there is only one Greek asylum lawyer effectively able to provide legal assistance on Chios. The main focus of the NGOs on the ground is humanitarian aid and social work.

The human need for; and legal right to, information remains. In the words of hunger strikers in the camp Souda, beginning of June 2016: “We don’t need food, we need future. We are humans, not animals.”

For more on information on the legal and factual situation in Chios, see publications (own & other).

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What we intend to do

Based on our experience gathered during the pilot project as well as on advice by lawyers working in the field of legal aid, we intend to carry out the following tasks on Chios:

(1) Information on family reunification and assistance with the procedure, including getting in touch with legal representatives of the family members in Germany (support by backoffice team);

(2) Information on the admissibility interview (interview in order to determine whether a person can be deported to Turkey) and the appeals procedure; and

(3) Record negative first instance decisions and refer the cases to Greek lawyers for appeal if needed.

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Based on our experience during the pilot project, the rlc abroad team Chios will be organized as follows:

There will be one long term legal coordinator on the ground. This person will be a fully qualified lawyer or at least have completed a law degree in order to ensure high quality work. He or she will be in charge of cooperation with actors on the ground and coordination of the legal volunteers. For reasons of sustainability, trust and credibility, that person will need to stay on Chios for several months. This is impossible without providing an expense allowance.

In addition, three to four legal volunteers will be sent to Chios based on a rotating system. Each legal volunteer will stay for at least two weeks.