Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier - The Middle East.
Local dynamics, regional actors, global challeges
February 2022
Claire Felix is a PhD candidate in Development Studies at the University of Lisbon (Portugal). She
holds a Master’s in International Studies specialising in political dynamics in the Middle East and
North Africa from ISCTE-IUL and a Bachelor in Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology
from the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Her field of interest includes migration governance and
asylum policies in Europe and, more specifically, the cohabitation with locals in Greece,
participation in policymaking, and ethics while conducting research
The 2015-refugee crisis fully hit Greece after years of strict austerity, challenging notions of
entitlement, the role of institutions, and overall assumptions on migration. This article
examines Greek asylum and migration policies and their impact on the every-day life of
asylum seekers. Drawing on Foucauldian perspectives and fieldwork in Eleonas camp in Athens
and Moria camp in Lesvos, it identifies the main consequences of those measures. Results
show that policies are exclusionist and perpetuate irregularity and illegality. Finally, it takes
the debate to a macro-level, challenging the responsibility of the European Union.
Asylum seekers, Refugees, Governance, Power, Exclusion
How to cite this article
Felix, Claire (2021). Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies: A
promise of a dignified life. Janus.net, e-journal of international relations. VOL12 N2, TD2 -
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local dynamics, regional actors, global challenges,
February 2022. Consulted[online] in date of the last visit, https://doi.org/10.26619/1647-
Article received on May 18, 2021 and accepted for publication on October 30, 2021
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges
February 2022, pp. 65-78
Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
This article discusses the influence of Greek asylum and migration policies on the
everyday life of asylum seekers and refugees coming to the European Union (EU). It aims
to understand how disenfranchised individuals seeking security and safety experience
policies in a context between humanitarian emergency and political frictions. The societal,
political, and academic contributions teach us to acknowledge individuals various lived
realities and how existing policies reinforce control instead of freedom of movement.
Regarding the Greek context, the country first faced the 2007 global financial crisis,
making it greatly affected within the EU. Then, with a total of 12 austerity packages
between 2010 and 2017, Greece endured a continuous cycle of recession and high
unemployment rates, leaving no one and nothing unaffected. It led to a humanitarian
crisis, with historical records of homelessness, suicide, growing sickness, cuts in salaries,
pension allocations, and reduced availability to public goods (Cabot, 2018).
A few years later, in 2011, the world witnessed the Arab Spring, a series of uprisings and
protests against oppressive regimes and poor quality of life in the Arab World, followed
by the destructive war in Syria. Overall, in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, citizens face
long-standing weak governance, economic hardship, corruption, and deeply rooted
religious or ethnic conflicts. Hundreds of thousands of children, women, and men have
made their way towards the EU, seeking international protection. The unprecedented
arrival of immigrants in 2015 challenged the EU’s adequacy to respond to crises. Despite
efforts to design and implement policies, the 28 countries forming the EU have
implemented 28 different asylum policies, resulting in uneven burden-sharing (Felix,
Because of its geographic location, Greece represents a door to safety and security and
has seen more than one million individuals crossing its borders in 2015, and so began
the European ‘refugee crisis’. Meanwhile, local NGOs were still dealing with their citizens’
humanitarian crises on the Greek mainland, while islands such as Lesvos have seen a
new wave of turmoil in their daily lives (Cabot, 2018: 18-19).
According to Campesi (2018), policies refer to a set of thoughts or action plans developed
by an organization or government. They are also implemented during periods of crisis
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e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges
February 2022, pp. 65-78
Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
in which decision-makers have little time to respond to specific events. Policies can
represent a disruption in the daily life of individuals where peculiar measures are needed
to survive (Campesi, 2018: 196-197).
Set up in 2005, the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) represents a body of EU
legislation establishing minimum standards and practices for examining and determining
asylum applications and managing asylum seekers and individuals recognized as
refugees. In line with CEAS and founded in 2011, the institution European Asylum
Support Office (EASO), aims to reinforce EU member state cooperation on asylum,
improve CEAS implementation, and provide scientific and technical support to countries
in need (European Commission, n.d.). Additionally, the Dublin III Regulation adopted in
2013 is an EU law defining which member state is in charge of examining an application
from asylum seekers requesting international protection under the Geneva Convention.
Overall, CEAS and the Dublin Regulation imply an expansion in surveillance and
monitoring and external border control, directly reinforced by Frontex since 2016
(European Border and Coast Guard Agency) (European Commission, n.d.).
In March 2016, the EU-Turkey reached an agreement designed to limit the mass arrival
of migrants in the EU via the Turkish territory. An important aspect was the repatriation
of all migrants who had reached the EU illegally. Moreover, the EU declared its willingness
to resettle Syrians living in Turkey who qualified for asylum and resettlement in the EU
on a one-by-one basis. The EU promised the Turkish government six billion euros and
loosened visa requirements for their citizens to travel to the EU.
The Hotspot approach was presented in the European Agenda on Migration in May 2015
but put in practice the same year as the deal complementing it. It was directly responding
to migrant mobility, perceived as unmanageable and therefore ominous. This mechanism
allows for the accommodation and strengthening of all relevant European agencies
regarding cooperation and centralized control over external borders and asylum
procedures. EASO, Frontex, Europol, and Eurojust help member states in need (Greece
and Italy) and support the mechanisms for implementation and harmonization. The
Hotspot approach in Greece, located on five islands (Lesvos, Samos, Kos, Chios, and
Leros), shows the limited mobility imposed on individuals trapped within borders, defining
everyday life by marginalization (Papada et al., 2019: 48-52).
Asylum procedures have been strongly criticized due to understaffed asylum services,
leading to applications higher than registration capacities. In response, firstly, a fast-
track procedure has been implemented, and secondly, interviews via Skype aimed at
reducing long waiting queues. Nevertheless, the asylum process has been considered
inefficient because of decisions without reasons, lack of translators/interpreters,
slowness of the process, and low recognition rates (Bolani et al., 2016: 90-93).
Under the admissibility procedure, applications of Syrian nationals are given priority. If
the application is considered admissible, that person can travel to the Greek mainland
and have her/his application processed by the Greek asylum authority. Iraq and
Afghanistan are countries with high recognition rates (when over 25% are positive
decisions). For non-Syrian nationals, it is the percentage of recognition rate out of the
total number of asylum decisions. Among low recognized asylum nationalities count
Tunisia, Pakistan, Algeria, and Morocco. The complicated web of asylum procedures
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges
February 2022, pp. 65-78
Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
applies arbitrary criteria (i.e., nationality and recognition rate) and cut-off dates (for
example, before and after the implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal) to manage and
discipline migrant mobility (Papada et al., 2019: 50).
The agreement caused problems in its implementation, as Turkey was not recognized as
a safe third country by the European Commission, causing problems regarding the rule
of law. Furthermore, the accord is not under the European Court of Justice jurisdiction
because of its political nature, making it not legally binding for involved countries. From
another point of view, the agreement was implemented to dissuade more individuals
from coming (Papada et.al., 2019: 48-52).
The promised one-to-one resettlements also turned out to be lower than expected:
between March 2016 and March 2021, just over 28,000 Syrian refugees were relocated
from Turkey to the EU, far below the 72,000 envisaged in the agreement. To express its
resentment, in the spring of 2020, the Turkish government permitted migrants to push
through its territory to the Greek border, where asylum seekers were turned back,
sometimes by force. In response, Greece suspended asylum applications for a month,
turned away migrants who entered illegally, and deployed its military to the border. In a
report, Greek officials declared Turkey as a smuggler itself. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who
refused an EU offer of one billion euros in additional aid, was accused of using asylum
seekers as a bargaining chip to obtain additional money, aid, and other political deals
from the EU (Terry, 2021).
Presenting the most relevant European migration and asylum policies denotes their
intention of tools for governance and control by creating different categories facilitating
the management of asylum seekers. Zones of inequality were created involving spatial
management of population mobility, guided by the need to facilitate the free movement
of goods and certain people and exclude others. As a result, borders are experienced
differently by different groups and individuals. This conflict between economic
globalization and security preoccupation leads to inconsistent and insecure border
regimes for managing mobility, built on vulnerability and bureaucratic domination (Vradis
et al., 2019).
This article’s contribution proposes a better understanding of how individuals with
different lived realities embody policies and give rhythm to refugees' everyday lives.
Furthermore, it provides a critical theoretical understanding of the existing mobility
framework within the EU, the relationship between agency and freedom, and how they
have reinforced marginalization, vulnerability, and exclusion instead of proposing a
dignified life.
This article identifies and discusses the consequences of Greek and European asylum and
migration policies on the daily life of asylum seekers. However, it does not neglect the
role and livelihood of Greeks within the context of the European ‘refugee crisis’ but argues
that it requires further detailed research. To theoretically address the topic, namely the
governance of individuals, Foucault’s theory about governmentality and bio-politics plays
a central role in surveillance and managing mechanisms followed by the methodological
framework, reflecting on the importance of research methods and ethics. Finally, results
will be presented, answering the research question of this article.
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Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
1. Theory: Governing the forgotten ones
Over time, European border control has become more radical without real precedent,
emphasizing the increasingly complex interplay between politics and economics, the rise
of social fears, and the obsessive deployment of surveillance technologies” (Fassin,
2011: 216).
Every power mechanism is specific to its era with the respective structure of thoughts
and implementation techniques. With the beginning of modern societies, power
mechanisms have taken a new way of expression, enforced by discipline based on
knowledge and the production of norms and behaviours, allowing self-regulation
(Foucault, 1976). In the 21st century, liberal western societies have become so
preoccupied with their citizens well-being and health, called bio-power. It is defined as
the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species
became the object of a political strategy” (Foucault, 2009), that ones’ rights reinforce
others’ exclusion. Framed as a productive power technology rather than repressive, it
refers to the well-being and health improvement of a country’s population and includes
monitoring, organizing, and controlling. This control can only be put in practice through
govermentality, in other words, indicators and statistics such as birth and mortality rates.
Agamben (1998) argued that the politicization of life is becoming more dangerous as it
reduces humanity to the biological life that can be kept alive or killed. Human beings can
be killed without impunity because they are already set outside the legal sphere. More
than being excluded, asylum seekers are abandoned by international law by normalizing
the ‘state of exception’ (Agambem, 2005). The distinction with Foucault’s understanding
is that he includes natural human life in the polis, while Agamben argued that it is only
included when excluded.
Through her research on displacement and exile in Europe after World War II and the
emergence of institutions for the “refugee” Malkki (1995) has claimed that refugee camps
became framed within technologies of care and control, managing mass displacement
through spatial concentration and the role of bureaucracy and administrations associated
with care and control (Malkki, 1995: 498). Agier (2002) joins this argument as camps
represent the combination of social conditions created by war and a place characterized
by large-scale segregation where life is kept away from the regular political and social
landscape. Refugee camps have seen professionalization of humanitarian assistance such
as experts, scientific research programs, and academic and popular journals (Agier,2002,
318-322). Sigona (2014) proposed campzenship’ to represent the forms of membership
produced in and by the camp and rejects Agamben’s State of exception as it does not
represent life in the camp as a whole. Therefore, she calls to de-exceptionalise camps
(Sigona, 2014) and joins Cabot (2018) in the importance to de-essentialize the category
of ‘refugee’ (Cabot, 2018: 7), highlighting that in migration studies, the whole population
should be investigated, in which migrants are part of it. This allows studying the
connection between border crossers and a less mobile population.
The structured and organized development of international humanitarian assistance,
characterized by the West’s dominant role, relates to the global governance of
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Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
disenfranchised individuals; called humanitarian governance (Barnett, 2005). The
humanitarian world uses violence to settle and balance its identity and role as caring and
understanding agents, described as striking with one hand, healing with the other”
(Agier, 2010: 29).
Biopolitics can examine how humanitarian organizations and practices govern certain
entities and contribute to their marginalization and insecurity, shift the accountability
from states to individuals, and enforce these exclusions through the intersubjective
constitution of specific categories (such as irregular migrants).
In the context of humanitarian governance and Foucault’s theoretical understanding of
power relations and techniques to control and govern asylum seekers and refugees are
various but mainly found in bureaucracy. Over time, organizations such as the EU or the
UN have developed systems, standards, knowledge, and indicators allowing constant
improvement and optimization of asylum seekers’ everyday lives. This bureaucratic
control is to be found in the spatial control of mobility, starting when individuals cross
borders and must give all necessary information to be registered in EURODAC. Keeping
on with controlling and calculating migration flows for an organized reception within
facilities. Secondly, it relates to the space itself, the refugee camp, precisely calculated
for a specific number of individuals.
Over time, the UN and NGOs have been focusing on optimizing everyday life in refugee
camps by advocating the importance of community, which has become another way of
governing. Refugee camps are usually divided by vulnerabilities or ethnicities, showing
the categorization of individuals from the beginning. Involving refugees through
participatory schemes raises awareness of their security management with their ethics,
values, and obligations, which can only be done if they first accept their victim ‘statuses’
to receive assistance (Bulley, 2014: 12-15).
2. Methodology
2.1. Methods
Ethnographic methods allow the researcher to immerse her/himself into a community’s
everyday practices and understand social phenomena. In this case, this research method
is relevant when trying to understand the everyday life of asylum seekers in Greece and
how asylum and migration policies are experienced.
In the frame of my Master dissertation, two phases of preliminary fieldwork have been
carried out, then reformulated for this article. Firstly, six months of participant
observation with the Greek non-governmental organization (NGO) Project Elea working
directly inside Eleonas camp in Athens between late August 2019 and January 2020. The
second phase of fieldwork occurred during February 2020 on Lesvos, specifically between
Mytilini and Moria camp.
I conducted 12 semi-structured interviews, five with asylum seekers and seven with
international volunteers. Templates were prepared in advance, with three sections
related to the same themes: cohabitation with locals, humanitarian work and the
situation in Moria, and the involvement of the Greek government and the EU. The aim
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Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
was to give people the opportunity to speak and provide time and space to raise their
voices beyond research questions. Due to my limited stay on Lesvos, I decided to apply
sampling, which allowed me to work with a population to represent the whole. Called
accidental sampling or snowball sampling, it is used when it is complicated to reach a
specific community or population, in this case, asylum seekers in general or those who
would feel comfortable enough conducting an interview. The only criteria for participation
were the age of majority and a sufficient English level for maintaining a conversation.
Moreover, I met different volunteers with whom I built friendships, which helped me find
people eligible to participate in this research. I met most of my interview partners through
the convenience of sampling. This method is relatively quick (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005),
which allowed me to conduct twelve interviews within ten days. I also intended to conduct
interviews with locals, but I decided to distribute surveys based on ten questions due to
the island’s tense atmosphere and my short-time presence. It included what locals think
of asylum seekers fleeing to Greece and their conditions on the island, and the
involvement of the Greek government and the EU. Respondents could answer with yes,
no, or neutral. A total of 12 individuals of the majority age participated; seven were living
between six and 56 years on the island, and five were born there.
Overall, this paper includes qualitative and quantitative methods, which can be argued
as typical for anthropological research, characterized by its interdisciplinary fields of
research and subjects and includes a complex, interconnected family of terms, concepts,
and assumptions […]” (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005: 3).
2.2. Research strategy
Along with secondary sources, the research strategy used was Grounded Theory (Glaser
and Strauss, 1967), aiming at identifying concepts and categories emerging from
collected data and linking them later with formal theories. Although criticized by several
scholars, later re-examined individually by the authors, the goal is to limit gaps between
praxis and theory and allow constant reflection between empirical data and theory.
Though the survey was based on a social constructivist frame where knowledge is
constructed, it is slightly opposed but still similar to Grounded Theory, in which
knowledge is created through the neutrality of the researcher. Therefore, social
constructionist views society as an objective and subjective reality and is fully compatible
with classical grounded theory instead of the constructionist grounded theory, which
takes a relativist standpoint. Nevertheless, the relevance of such research can be
questioned as it produces many representations that can each claim legitimacy (Andrews,
When I arrived at Eleonas camp, I initially wanted to research gender experiences of
refugee women through participant observation. Though this would have been an
important contribution to gender research, I felt that my research needed a more political
approach and decided to attempt to understand the daily impact of asylum and migration
policies regarding camp conditions and chaotic asylum procedures. While taking notes
during meetings with coordinators, having informal discussions with volunteers and
residents of the camp, and later conducting fieldwork on Lesvos, concepts and certain
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VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges
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Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
narratives emerged. Generally, they referred to the lack of respect for human rights, the
often arrogant and uninterested attitude of national authorities towards asylum seekers,
and the locals position. Additionally, it became clear that there was an issue of unequal
power relations, misrepresentation, and categorization towards and between asylum
seekers, locals, and institutions managing migration coming to the EU.
The data analyzed from interviews was done based on coding through keywords or similar
statements, and data from surveys were analyzed with the support of a bar diagram,
giving a visual representation for a better understanding of similarities and differences.
2.3. Ethics
To avoid human rights violations, exposure to marginalization and discrimination, and
endured restrictive access to their rights, I presented an informed consent document
providing information about the research, ensuring that participants understood what
they agreed to and had freedom of participation before each interview. If my interview
partner could not read English, I started by explaining my research and ensuring that
their participation would not impact their asylum procedures as some feared and,
therefore, would be done under anonymity. The concept of voluntary participation might
be unfamiliar to asylum seekers. That is why I highlighted at the beginning of the
conversation that they could stop it at any time without justifications. Some might
experience fear, as exactly those people have been fleeing from authoritarian regimes or
experienced violation of human rights (Krause, 2017: 8).
On the other hand, some asylum seekers did not have a problem with their names being
published, as they wanted their stories to be heard. All my interviewees could choose
where the interview would occur, mainly in coffees/bars, in public spaces like squares,
or at Moria canteen. To ensure a comfortable atmosphere between the interviewees and
myself, and for personal interest and curiosity, I proposed to send participants my
research once finished. All of them happily accepted, building trust between us and
reinforcing my intentions.
While data are collected for academic research, scholars have argued whether findings
should be shared with policymakers. Jacobsen and Landau (2003) proposed the concept
of dual imperative, which attempts to satisfy the demands of academic peers and to
ensure that the knowledge and understanding work generates are used to protect
refugees and influence institutions” (Jacobsen and Landau, 2003: 186). As I support
Landau and Jacobsen for sharing results with policymakers, I also endorse Krause’s
viewpoint to share findings with participants, underlying the importance of handing over
feedback to the communities and how data was used (Krause, 2017: 24-26).
2.4. Reflection of the researcher
I believe that hierarchical differences regarding asylum seekers were not an issue due to
my young age, which may have played a role. Nevertheless, I felt some hierarchal
difference with locals, especially on Lesvos, as I was clearly labeled as a foreigner who
could afford to be a volunteer, reinforced by the fact that I did not speak Greek. During
JANUS.NET, e-journal of International Relations
e-ISSN: 1647-7251
VOL12 N2, TD2
Thematic dossier The Middle East. Local Dynamics, regional actors, global challenges
February 2022, pp. 65-78
Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
my fieldwork on Lesvos, international volunteers were attacked several times and
injured, which did not make me feel insecure walking in Mytilini’s streets but just
reminded me to be more cautious. However, I mainly experienced emotional challenges
during my interviews, where I was confronted with the harsh reality of being an asylum
seeker, reminding me daily of my privilege.
Language barriers, specifically with Greeks, impacted my limited involvement in the field,
making it complicated to reach citizens for conducting interviews. During my fieldwork
on Lesvos, Greek citizens refused most of my interview proposals. As I could only stay
for three weeks, I had to adapt my research methods to the dynamics of the field, which
were changing nearly every day (such as two days of general strikes where everything
was closed, including no public transport at all). Once I realized it would be challenging
to speak with locals, I decided to work on surveys. While I was printing these, I asked
the copy shop owner, who was Greek and with whom I had already talked a few times,
if, in his opinion, people would be open to a survey. He confirmed with enthusiasm,
saying that Greeks want to show their side of the story as well. Overall, I believe that
my status as a foreigner limited my research of Greek attitudes, who maybe assumed I
was an international volunteer.
A second limitation though related is my time-limited presence in the camps and,
therefore limited my ability to conduct in-depth fieldwork on Lesvos and has been limited
to day-time ethnography. Several asylum seekers in both facilities told me that at night
time, once NGOs and volunteers were gone, the atmosphere in camps was significantly
different, involving more violence, aggression, and clashes between ethnic communities
but also with camp authorities.
The third limitation concerns the sampling process for interviews and surveys, as
participants were chosen based on their English level and age. Consequently, this
research unconsciously or unintentionally contributed to silencing some people. While it
is hardly possible to involve all community members, sensitivity to processes of inclusion,
exclusion, and inequalities is crucial (Krause, 2017: 9). In this case, those who could not
speak English or perhaps felt uncomfortable leaving their place and being in public spaces
with locals did not have the opportunity to participate in the research.
Through these formal and informal conversations with asylum seekers and refugees this
fieldwork gave me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of their various lived
experiences from the moment they left their home country, the countries they crossed,
their relationship with smugglers, later obstacles faced and assistance received when
arriving in Greece and their relationship with locals. Fieldwork undoubtedly led me to
better sense both facilities day-to-day dynamics, one considered the best camp in the
country and the other as the worst of all Europe. By living for six months in Athens, and
three weeks in Lesvos, the relationship between asylum seekers and locals seemed to be
hanging by a thread. I saw the unequal treatment of asylum seekers and refugees from
whom fundamental human rights were kept away, but I also saw locals being blamed on
bare accusations, as Greeks were still enduring consequences of the financial crisis
leading to an internal humanitarian crisis.
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Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
3. Results
Crossing the Aegean Sea might seem like a short geographical trip but turned out to be
a deadly passage. Individuals are often more than the allowed number per boat, not
always given access to safety jackets, and left alone for hours in the water. Once they
arrive, locals or volunteers, providing first aid assistance, instantly make them criminals,
maintaining a circle of illegality and irregularity. Strict security and surveillance
techniques framed as regularity and classificatory technologies” (Rozakou, 2017: 39),
adding to sometimes illegal border controls and authorities’ (in)actions represent the first
consequences of asylum and migration policies, resulting in traumas, various types of
violence, and cases of human trafficking (Crawley et al., 2016: 33-35). Greek coast guard
authorities have also been accused of pushing asylum seekers back into Turkish water
or not providing first aid assistance.
Interview partner 1 told me that he also came by boat from Turkey to Lesvos; I came
with the boat. It was so difficult. It was cold, and I was in the water for four hours.”
(Interview partner 1., 17.02.2020). Interview partner 2’s statement is similar, claiming
that the water is ‘too dangerous’ but that people still come (Interview partner 2.,
Once individuals arrive in Reception and Identification Centers, such as Moria camp, they
are fingerprinted, photographed, and all kinds of personal questions are asked based on
the Dublin Regulation, making it the most relevant information in the state’s eyes
(Rozakou, 2017: 37-39). They are informed about their rights, restricted from the
beginning, and are forced to wait for an undefined time.
Drawing on Foucault’s modern understanding of power relations and the political entity
refugee camps represent, biopolitics and governmentality measures are forcing rhythm
upon the daily life of children, women, and men. Although policies have been
implemented to assist individuals in need, provide a dignified life, and guarantee
fundamental human rights, in practice, they look different and has been widely criticized
for their ineffectiveness. Inhabitants of Eleonas and Moria camps have often reported to
me about wrong or were not provided with a translator during interviews. Moreover,
errors in documents, and understaffed asylum units, delay their applications without
considering daily and structural discrimination and racism (Felix, 2020). Rozakou argues
that coast guards, police officers, and general street bureaucrats were sustaining
individuals’ irregularity by not recording everything, practicing irregular bureaucracy,
creating a bureaucratic limbo (Rozakou, 2017: 40-42).
Out of my five conversations with asylum seekers, only one received refugee status,
while others faced difficulties due to chaotic and extensive asylum procedures. A
participant explained that when he arrived in Lesvos on a boat carrying 52 other
individuals, including his wife and two young sons, they were brought directly to Moria
to be identified, registered, and informed about the camps rules. Some days later, he
went with his family to the EASO office as they had an appointment there, yet he was
mysteriously told that only he had not been registered. He felt distraught and perplexed,
stating, but how is this even possible? But they told me it is my problem, not theirs”
(Interview partner 5., 25.02.2020). Because of this error, he had to wait 45 days longer
to have a new appointment with EASO workers that, seemingly uninterested, blamed
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Understanding the impact of European asylum and migration policies:A promise of a dignified life
Claire Felix
him. Later, he told me that his first interview had been scheduled in 15 months, making
him wait until May 2021, delaying his application even more and at a different time from
his family, risking separation. Also, interview partner 2 was still waiting for his asylum
interview. He arrived on the island in February 2019, and by the time of our conversation,
he did not receive any interview date, and was losing hope of leaving the camp in Moria
one day (Interview partner 2., 19.02.2020).
This shows how asylum procedures are mainly defined as ‘waiting times’ by applicants,
making them periods of uncertainty and frustration. Now, if you come, they will give
you a piece of paper that tells you to wait. You wait for a long time, it can take you one
year, eight months or six months. They do not care” (Interview partner 4., 22.02.2020).
Although residents of Eleonas can enjoy better conditions than in Moria, some are still
struggling with their asylum applications. After receiving two rejections, a young single
male from Guinea, whom I met during my volunteering time in Athens, told me he had
been waiting for his papers for over three years. Meanwhile, he is engaged daily in Project
Elea’s’ activities, trying to accept his situation.
This limbo is reinforced in refugee camps, where everyday life is kept away from political
and social dynamics, characterized by large-scale segregation. As in most camps, Eleonas
and Moria’s inhabitants have expressed strong feelings of uselessness and powerlessness
due to insufficient occupations (Agier, 2002, Felix, 2020). Regarding the locations
themselves, they are both defined by containers and tents (often self-made) in which
individuals live organized by various categories such as vulnerabilities or ethnicities.
Moria has received international attention for its shameful conditions, where NGO’s and
several other organizations accused the EU-Turkey deal of rapid and chaotic escalation.
Daily life is characterized by ethnic violence between residents and local authorities,
gender-based violence, illness, stealing, long waiting queues for distribution, sanitary
access, no access to electricity, which leads to tenseness, agitation, and frustration.
Moreover, inhabitants must face a high amount of garbage production, which the
municipality of Mytilini does not adequately manage (Felix, 2020).
An interview partner told me that if he had known about the conditions in Moria camp,
he would never have come to Greece, stating, Moria is more dangerous than
Afghanistan! (Interview partner 2., 19.02.2020). He described