Lesbos is a jail
With the agreement between the European Union and Turkey of March 20, 2016, the situation of refugees arriving in Lesbos has radically changed. The island is no longer the point of traffic from where they continue their journey to the mainland, but a space of blockade and seclusion has occurred.
Within a few months, the refugees were registered and departing by ferry to the mainland. Since the implementation of the agreement, however, they were held in so-called "hotspots" or registration and detention centers. In these spaces, migrants are identified, registered and classified: some may request asylum and others will be considered economic migrants without the right to international protection. There are five such centers in Greece, all of them located on islands: Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Cos.
Moria, from a reception camp to a detention center.
In Moria, the "hotspot" of Lesbos, migrants have to make an appointment to register the request for asylum in Greece or relocation in other European countries.
The system is managed by Greek Interior Ministry officials and can take days or even weeks before the appointment to register the application. The process was slow and prolonged the time spent in the field. In 2016, between 40 and 50 daily asylum applications were being processed in Lesbos, where around 5,000 people were blocked and migrants still arrived every day.
Then, they could head to the mainland, where they would end up in one of the camps around the country. If after three months they had not received a positive response, they could go through it and wait another three months. If the new answer is no, they will be considered economic migrants and will continue in Moria until the deportation order is applied to them, as has happened in several cases. Haris, a Pakistani boy, explained: "Today, many Syrians have been given a residence permit in Greece, but the Pakistanis have not given us anything. When we asked why we did not receive the document, we were told that we would be deported to Turkey. In this climate of bureaucratic saturation, most refugees remain in Moria for at least six months, initially in a closed regime. After 25 days, they are allowed to leave the center, but without leaving the island, which becomes a kind of prison where police control of the movements and repression are constant. This control is even more intense on the islands with less presence of journalists, such as Cos or Chios.