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Fundamental rights and the EU hotspot approach, Danish Refugee Council, 2017 november

« Refugees and asylum seekers experience a broad range of rights violations when they arrive to the so-called hotspots in Italy and Greece. Additionally the Greek hotspots have become a form of deterrence policy, a new Danish Refugee Council (DRC) study of the implementation of the EU hotspot approach shows.

Gaps in information, lack of legal assistance, under-identification of vulnerable persons, restricted freedom of movement and de facto detention. This is just some of the conditions which asylum seekers and refugees arriving in the hotspots in Italy and Greece meet, according to a legal assessment of the current operation of the EU hotspot approach. The result is a wide range of fundamental rights issues in the hotspots, which are addressed in the study through a number of recommendations. While the EU Hotspot Approach in itself is not a problem, the way that it is implemented is.

The study includes a more in-depth look into the Moria hotspot on the Greek island of Lesvos. It shows poor humanitarian standards with massive overcrowding. Current figures estimate a staggering 6250 asylum seekers and migrants currently residing in Moria, against a capacity of 1800. At the time of the study, only one latrine was functioning, water supplies were insufficient, and thousands of asylum seekers were living in tents.

The study also examines the role of the hotspot approach in the proposed reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and the hotspot approach as a form of externalization and deterrence. DRC argues that – in particularly on the Greek islands – many of the current protection gaps and challenges are derived from the fact that the approach in its implementation constitute a shift away from a territorial reception towards a model of containment at the EU’s external borders coupled with policies of deterrence, not least due to its inter-linkage with the EU-Turkey deal in the Greek context.

Christian Friis Bach, Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council, states that “the first priority must and should be the protection of people seeking safety from conflict and persecution. The current conditions in the hotspots are not acceptable and we must strengthen the effective and rights-sensitive reception, identification and registration in the hotspots. There must be access to legal assistance and asylum procedures in safe and dignified surroundings with adequate humanitarian standards.” He further underlines, that “the EU must find common solutions, and accept a fair share of the responsibility to provide international protection to those in need”.

The DRC recommendations and the future role of the EU hotspot approach were debated at a panel discussion in Brussels on Friday 10 November 2017 with relevant EU institutions, Member States, knowledge institutions and NGOs. The event allowed for timely discussion with key EU stakeholders in advance of the release of European Commission Guidelines for the implementation of the EU Hotspot Approach expected this week, and for highlighting the deteriorating situation on the Greek islands »

Read the full study ‘‘Fundamental rights and the EU hotspot approach’ here

Polly Pallister-Wilkins, Hotspots and the geographies of humanitarianism, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, January 25, 2018


« This article focuses on the humanitarian geographies of the hotspots. It argues that hotspots are humanitarian in both idea and practice by raising two fundamental questions that form the basis for the article: what is humanitarianism, and who is it for? The article understands humanitarianism as a logic of government that is more expansive than the mainstream ideal that emerged in the 20th-century. Instead humanitarianism is understood as concerning logics developed to both effectively manage disaster and to secure (in both senses of the word) imminently mobile populations for the maintenance of liberal order alongside and through the securing of life. The article takes an expansive view of humanitarian government to consider genealogies of caring and population security logics in the establishment of modern, western and liberal states. The article unsettles some of the traditional geographical understandings of humanitarianism as care for distant strangers and considers the ways compassion is rationalised by the hotspot approach. This critical reading of humanitarianism and the hotspots offers empirical weight to what has been called ‘humanitarianism as liberal diagnostic’, through which humanitarianism is deployed to secure both life and a liberal political order across multiple scales. »

Keywords : Hotspots, humanitarianism, mobility, care, control, disaster


Charles Heller, Antoine Pécoud, Counting migrants’ deaths at the border: From civil society counter-statistics to (inter)governmental recuperation, Working paper IMIn, Vol.143, 2018


« Migrant deaths in border-zones have become a major social and political issue, especially in the euro-Mediterranean region and in the context of the refugee/migrant crisis. While media, activists and policymakers often mention precise figures regarding the number of deaths, little is known about the production of statistical data on this topic. This paper explores the politics of counting migrant deaths in Europe. This statistical activity was initiated in the nineties by civil society organizations; the purpose was to shed light on the deadly consequences of ‘Fortress Europe’ and to challenge states’ control-oriented policies. In 2013, the International Organization for Migration also started to count migrants’ deaths, yet with a different political objective: humanitarian and life-saving activities become integrated in border management and the control of borders is expected to both monitor human mobility and save migrants’ lives. IOM thus depoliticises these statistics, while at the same time imitating an activity first associated with political contestation by civil society actors. Finally, the paper explores ways in which statistics on border deaths can be re-politicised to challenge states’ immigration policies in Europe. »


Border control, deaths at the border, migration crisis, International Organization for Migration, humanitarian border

PDF online :

William L Allen, Bastian A Vollmer, Clean skins: Making the e-Border security assemblage, Environment and Planning D, 36 (1), 2017


« How do border security practitioners engage with data and technology, and what difficulties or limitations arise from these engagements? Responding to calls for critically examining how technological ‘solutions’ are enacted, we analyse the notion of e-Borders in the UK context as an assemblage comprising abstract conditions, concrete objects, and agents whose roles often manifest themselves through perceptions and practices. We draw upon interviews with former and currently serving senior staff from the UK Home Office, UK Border Force, intelligence services, and private sector suppliers. Practitioners’ reflections reveal how political, social, and human factors—including intuition and management cultures—both construct the e-Border assemblage and introduce discontinuities and frictions within it. Using a more tightly specified theory of assemblage, we highlight how human agents contribute to datafied phenomena like border control. In total, our study emphasises how assemblages are dynamic, never entirely coherent, and always being re-made »

Keywords Assemblage theory, border security, critical data studies, e-Borders, United Kingdom


online :

Georges Didi-Huberman, Niki Giannari, Passer, quoi qu’il en coûte, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 2017

« Apatrides, sans-foyer.
Ils sont là.
Et ils nous accueillent
dans leur regard fugitif,
nous, les oublieux,
les aveugles.
Ils passent et ils nous pensent. »

(Niki Giannari)

« Passer. Passer quoi qu’il en coûte. Plutôt crever que ne pas passer. Passer pour ne pas mourir dans ce territoire maudit et dans sa guerre civile. Avoir fui, avoir tout perdu. Passer pour tenter de vivre ici où la guerre est moins cruelle. Passer pour vivre comme sujets du droit, comme simples citoyens. Peu importe le pays, pourvu que ce soit un État de droit. Passer, donc, pour cesser d’être hors de la loi commune. Dans tous les cas : passer pour vivre. Mais là où vous avez fui les murs clos des caves bombardées, vous avez trouvé une frontière close et des barbelés au camp d’Idomeni. »

(Georges Didi-Huberman)

Passer, quoi qu’il en coûte se compose d’une part d’un poème, en version bilingue, de Niki Giannari intitulé Des spectres hantent l’Europe (pages 11 à 21) et d’un texte de Georges Didi-Huberman intitulé Eux qui traversent les murs (pages 25 à 88). Les 11 illustrations de ce livre sont tirées  d’un documentaire, Des spectres hantent l’Europe, tourné dans un camp à Idomeni en Grèce dont Niki Giannari est coauteur avec Maria Kourkouta.


photo@ ENIGMUR, E. Ritaine, B. Barthélémy, Lisboa, 2014