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Vulnerability and the right to international protection: The case of Greece in the current refugee crisis

Theofanis Exadaktylos; Evgenia Iliadou; Carmen Caruso

Since the 2010s and the start of the increased refugee flows in Europe, Greece has been at the spotlight as a point of entry for refugees and asylum seekers from troubled regions of the Middle East and North Africa who attempt to cross either the land border with Turkey or use the sea routes to find shelter on the Greek islands (Lafazani 2018). The well-being of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece has also been at the spotlight for two reasons: (a) the crossing is largely unsafe either because of the landmines and other geographical characteristics of the land border or the inappropriate conditions of the boats used by traffickers, resulting in a number of deaths; and (b) the conditions of accommodation and detention in refugee camps and temporary facilities which do not meet health and safety standards or increase the vulnerability of certain segments of the refugee/asylum seeking population. As a result, Greece has also faced criticism from its European partners as well as national and international NGOs regarding its inability to cater for those arriving in Greece and for contributing to deportation back to Turkey without taking reasonable safety measures. Nonetheless, the heart of this crisis coincided with the demise of the Greek economy and the prolonged financial crisis (2009-2019) and was topped by the challenges of the pandemic between 2020-2022. This article reflects on those challenges, looking at the intricacies of the Greek case study, and discusses issues of vulnerability, refugee protection and well-being, as well as presenting evidence from our fieldwork on two locations in Thessaloniki and Lesvos between 2020 and 2022 during the H2020-funded project PROTECT.

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