Cite as: Velenza, C., 2018, "The Greek response to the refugee crisis in Eastern Mediterranean (the period of 2015-2016): An overview". MtReKoc Working Paper.
The Mediterranean has become the world’s most deadly crossing point for migrants. In 2015, there were 856,732 recorded arrivals in Greece as well as an estimated total of more than 6,600 missing persons or deaths in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean routes in 2015 and first half of 2016.1 The aim of this briefing paper is to assess how Greece responded to this influx, and identify lessons for addressing situations of large scale refugee movement at a European and global level. Based on research and fieldwork in Greece, mainly in Athens and Lesbos, this paper focuses on the critical period October 2015-May 2016 which saw high flows of asylum seekers into Greece and which predates the EU-Turkey deal agreed in March 2016. The paper focuses on the ways in which the Greek government and EU struggled to address the crisis during that period, outlining the challenges of implementing sustainable solutions and efficient policies given obstacles at national and European level. In particular, it focuses on the island of Lesbos, the main entry point of refugees from Turkey to Greece particularly on the island’s reception capacity. The findings highlight the need for a more effective common asylum system in the EU that includes adequate support and assistance to frontline states, and makes some suggestions for preventing future crises in situations of large-scale arrivals.