There are currently five hotspots in Greece (on the islands of Chios, Kos, Leros, Lesvos and Samos) and four in Italy (in Lampedusa, Pozzallo, Taranto and Trapani).
The European Commission formulated the hotspot approach in the European Agenda on Migration in April 2015 in response to the increased migratory pressure. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the EU’s law enforcement Agency (Europol) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) have deployed experts directly in the hotspots to support national authorities in registering and screening new arrivals, investigating smuggling and other criminal activities, and registering and interviewing applicants for international protection.
Given the fundamental rights challenges arising from responding to the increased migratory pressure, the Agency has been providing fundamental rights expertise to the European Commission, EASO and Frontex on diverse aspects of their operations in Greece and Italy, since the hotspot approach began mid-2015. In October 2015, for example, the Agency published a checklist to act in compliance with fundamental rights when obtaining fingerprints for the EU’s fingerprinting database, Eurodac.
To further enhance the provision of meaningful support to EU actors on the ground, Agency staff were present in the Greek hotpots from April to September 2016. This field presence allowed them to look at general issues connected to the operation of the hotspots, and specific issues related to child protection, the situation of other vulnerable groups and procedural safeguards linked to removal. The Agency also carried out fact-finding missions to the Italian hotspots to familiarise itself with the fundamental rights challenges arising there.
To address some of the fundamental rights gaps identified in Greece, the Agency carried out a number of other activities, such as a workshop on guardianship for unaccompanied children or the training of forced return monitors. Similar activities will continue in 2017, based on a Memorandum of Understanding between the Agency and the Ministry of Migration Policy of the Hellenic Republic. Additional activities will also be carried out in Italy in 2017.