Refugees Face Fences and Force in 'Prison-Like' European Hotspots

So-called refugee “hotspots”—touted by European leaders as a key strategy to deal with the ever-growing influx of people seeking to escape war and poverty in their home countries—are being described as “prison-like,” raising fresh concerns about the humanitarian dimension of the crisis.

At last month’s emergency summit in Brussels, European heads of state agreed to funnel at least €1.1 billion to help refugees and establish processing centers—”hotspots”—in Greece and Italy, where the largest numbers of asylum-seekers are arriving. From the start, the proposal raised “the disturbing specter of internment camps dotted around Greece and Italy,” as the Associated Press wrote last week.

While details about the hotspots remain murky, what is clear is that the facilities will be used to register and fingerprint refugees before they are either assigned to one of the 25 European Union countries that have agreed to host them, or deported.

Describing the Pozzallo facility in Sicily, EurActiv writes:

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What’s more, Reuters reported this week, Italy will allow a “proportionate” use of force to obtain fingerprints, which it has not done regularly in the past, “to the extent that it is compatible with Italian law.”

Reuters continued:

Meanwhile, the European border agency Frontex launched a call on Friday for 775 additional guards to be deployed at the external borders of the European Union—the largest number of border guards Frontex has ever requested in the history of the agency.

But a more comprehensive approach is needed, wrote analyst Nina Perkowski on Friday—one that emphasizes humanity over harsh tactics. 

“‘More Frontex’ cannot be the answer to this crisis,” she argued. “Rather than investing millions more in fences, patrols, and an EU Border Guard, we need the courage to accept that the policies of exclusion have failed.”

“After more than two decades of attempting to ‘seal’ EU borders, of increasing Frontex’s funding and powers, building new fences, and making it ever more difficult for the poor, marginalised, and persecuted to reach EU territory, it is time to realise that this is not working,” Perkowski concluded. “Rather than ‘more Frontex,’ we need policies and practices that recognize the humanity of those seeking safety and livelihood for themselves and their families and allow them to do so also here in Europe, rather than keeping them ‘away’ from ‘us’ at all costs.”

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