On the surface, refugees on Chios are settling in for a long wait for asylum. A small black economy has developed in the camps. This man sells hand-rolled cigarettes. Some have been here so long they have set themselves up with the comforts of home, but frustrations are. This Iraqi Kurdish man tried to stop us filming an interview outside a camp. He had been drinking, his companions later said; a reaction to inaction on his asylum. Some give up.
Twenty-year-old Mohamed Zbila decided to return to Algeria eight months after arriving in Greece. He was turned down for asylum and decided to waive his right to an appeal instead accepting five hundred and fifty dollars and a free airline ticket home.
“My dream was to get to France to start a new life find work and start a family instead I got trapped here in Greece and my life is very difficult right now. I'm alone, I don't have proper papers and the police keep stopping me”.
With more refugees arriving on the Aegean islands every week the government and European Commission decided to offer an extra incentive. As of last month, Asylum applicants on the islands who've been rejected once have been given a choice to exercise either their right to appeal the decision, or their right to return home voluntarily, but not both. Humanitarian groups say that forcing them to choose between two rights, is both legally and ethically wrong. Refugee lawyers say such haste makes asylum in Europe discouragingly difficult.
“They get their notification, naturally, if it's a rejection they are devastated and then they have five days to make that decision, that's not enough time to go and see a lawyer, assess your case, decide whether you want to appeal or if you want to go back home. There's just too much weight, it's too much hanging on them, it's just too much pressure”.
Supporters of the Greek decision say the incentive to leave helps weed out false applicants those who don't really face danger back home.
“It's not a choice between two rights, it's a choice between a right to appeal and a privilege to return home. This was done to counteract the abuse of the asylum appeal system. Each person has a right to, and a duty to, assume their responsibilities”.
European officials say they aim to uphold humanitarian law, while protecting borders, but doing so too expeditiously, critics say, can amount to a policy to detain, deport and discourage.