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There are currently five hotspots in Greece (on the islands of Chios, Kos, Leros, Lesvos and Samos) and four in Italy (in Lampedusa, Messina, Pozzallo, Taranto).
The European Commission formulated the hotspot approach in the European Agenda on Migration in April 2015 in response to the increased migratory pressure. Under this approach, the EU assists frontline Member States confronted with disproportionate numbers of arrivals in registering those who come; addressing initial reception needs; identifying vulnerabilities and undertaking security checks. Asylum and return procedures may also take place in the hotspots. The hotspot approach has since then been implemented in Greece and Italy. It applies to all disembarkations of migrants rescued at sea as well as to unauthorised landings in the Eastern Aegean islands and in the most affected areas of Southern Italy. 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. Based on the requests from the European Parliament, the Agency issued an Opinion on fundamental rights in the hotspots in November 2016, which was later updated in February 2019.
To address some of the fundamental rights gaps identified in Greece, the Agency has been visiting the Eastern Aegean islands since April 2016 providing fundamental rights expertise. Together with other partners FRA carried out or contributed to targeted training and capacity building activities, for example on child protection, guardianship for unaccompanied children, data protection, trafficking in human beings or forced return monitoring. Such activities will continue in 2019, based on a renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Agency and the Ministry of Migration Policy of the Hellenic Republic. In addition, the Agency supports other Member States affected by high number of arrivals.