Spotlight on hotspots and the new EU Migration Pact

In November 2019, the head of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency described the EU ‘hotspot’ in Moria, Lesbos, Greece, as “the single most worrying fundamental rights issue that we are confronting anywhere in the European Union.”  This overcrowded place of confinement for those seeking refuge in the EU, was destroyed on 9 September 2020 in a devastating fire, leaving nearly 13,000 men, women, and children without shelter or access to basic services. In an apparently reaction to this tragedy, the European Commission has brought forward the publication date of its new ‘Pact on Migration’ to Wed 23 September, with Commission President Von der Leyen promising ‘We'll take a human & humane approach. Saving lives at sea is not optional and those countries who fulfil their legal and moral duties or are more exposed than others, must be able to rely on the solidarity of our whole EU.’

This webinar was hosted on 23 September 2020 as a rapid reaction to the recent events in Moria and the new Pack on Migration of the European Commission. The discussions moderated by Centre for Fundamental Rights Co-Director and Hertie School's Professor for Fundamental Rights Cathryn Costello, Prof. Itamar Mann (University of Haifa) and Prof. Nora Markard (University of Münster) brought together diverse voices on refugee protection to offer perspectives on the events in Lesbos, the ‘hotspot’ approach, and the Commission’s newly published Pact.

The opening speakers - Isabel Schayani, journalist and broadcaster, and Essam Daod, co-founder of Humanity Crew, presented their work on Lesbos, where those in search of protection are currently being re-encamped and subject to prolonged uncertainty and insecurity in inhuman and degrading conditions. Daniel Howden, managing director of Lighthouse Reports, addressed the new Pact, in light of his characterisation of the EU-Turkey deal as dead, as well as his previous investigative journalism on EU funds in Greece, and the structural accountability deficits that enable the mistreatment of refugees. Minos Mouzourakis, Legal Officer at Refugee Support Aegean, offered a first take on the Pact, in light of Refugee Support Aegean’s work to support evacuation from the Greek islands and end unlawful and inhumane detention and accommodation. Tineke Strik MEP identified the key features of the Pact, and its many shortcomings. Overall, it fails to address the main features of EU refugee policy that generate the phenomenon of containment at and beyond the EU’s borders.

This event took place as part of the Fundamental Rights in Practice events series hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights. It was hosted in collaboration with the Jacques Delors Centre and in association with the German Law Journal Special Issue on Border Justice: Migration and Accountability for Human Rights Violations (2020).

Listen to the podcast of the presentation here: