We decided to host the conference on Kos because the island is a blueprint for detention practices in Europe. Kos is home to the only pre-removal detention centre on the Aegean islands as well as a new “Closed-Controlled Access Centre.” The interim Minister of Migration in Greece recently hailed the new closed centre as a “jewel” of Europe, signaling that it could serve as a model for other countries in the future. The centre is prison-like facility, surrounded by layers of barbed wire and NATO style fencing, and residents’ movement is restricted both within and outside it.
The conference could not have come at a more critical time. Just as we were heading out to visit the closed facility on Kos, EU leaders took a critical step towards passing the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. While politicians across Europe hailed the agreement as a breakthrough after years of failed migration policies, that New Pact represents a shift towards detention, and, if passed, will expose many more people to immigration detention in the future.
Over the course of the three days, we heard from experts from Greece, Malta, Lithuania, Croatia, Hungary, Germany, and more about the state of immigration detention in those Member States and discussed the many parallel policies in place across Europe. We also heard from members of the European Parliament, including Birgit Sippel and Tineke Strik, and had the opportunity to question a representative from the Commission on how the New Pact will affect detention practices.
Despite the challenges ahead, the conference ended on a hopeful note. After days of learning about the different detention practices across the EU, conference participants came together to brainstorm ways to work together to challenge some of the worst detention policies in the EU. We are planning follow up sessions to implement some of the ideas that came out of the final session and are excited to share more updates in the coming months.
The conference program can be found here.