This month has seen a troubling shift in the EU as more and more people seek safety in Europe.

Last year, the EU set up border reception centres, called ‘hotspots’. Located on islands in Greece, the hotspots aimed to register and screen migrants before swift transfer to the Greek mainland, with special processes in place for vulnerable individuals, such as children. Importantly, deprivation of a person’s right to liberty was no part of this process.

However, this changed with the new EU-Turkey deal, negotiated on March 18. Now the hotspots aim to “implement returns to Turkey” and shortly after the agreement came into force the hotspots were transformed into closed detention facilities. At this stage it is unclear if those returned to Turkey will be subject to further detention.

In response, the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) redefined their role in the EU-Turkey deal, saying the hotspots have now become mandatory detention, while Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) suspended some of their activities calling it “mass expulsion”.

This EU pressure and move to detain in the first instance comes at a time when both Greece and Turkey had moved to limit the use of immigration detention over the past two years.

This move by the EU to push and promote mass border detention and deportation follows similar moves in other regions in the northern triangle with the Plan Frontera Sur and continued offshore processing on Nauru by Australia.

These regional and multilateral arrangements highlight how critical it is that civil society is supported and mobilised to respond to these developments. It is clear that national advocacy approaches alone are insufficient given the regional and international elements at play.


Find out more:


‘Next Steps in EU-Turkey Cooperation in the Field of Migration, March 2016’, European Commission


‘Mapping the Refugee Crisis, European Commission’


‘Protection and pragmatism: the EU-Turkey refugee deal in historical perspective’ Jeff Crisp 21 March 2016


‘The final EU/Turkey refugee deal: a legal assessment’ Steve Peers 18 March 2016


‘Law professor assesses the EU plan to send asylum seekers back to Turkey’ Steve Peers 21 March 2016


‘UN rights chief expresses serious concerns over EU-Turkey agreement’ 24 March 2016


‘Government to submit bill for implementation of the EU-Turkey deal’ 24 March 2016


‘The Paradox of the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal’ Migration Policy Institute, 25 March 2015