The article engages with the relationship between the chronopolitics of mobility and migrants’ narratives of the past, their present suffering, and hope for the future. Data collected through observation and repeat interviews with migrants in the Moria and Kara Tepe camps in Lesvos, Greece, challenge the assumption that ‘time’ spent waiting in the camps by illegalized migrants represents a linear and singular metanarrative of the migrant in ‘temporal suspension’ from the ‘grid of modernity’. I suggest, that the concept of historical time allows for a critical analysis of illegalized migrants’ narratives of their past lives, their present suffering and future aspirations, through which they challenge the chronopolitics of control inherent in the current EU migration system. While such narratives might at first sight be understood as accepting a migration system based on suspension and gradual re-introduction into western historical and political time, they present a challenge to the exceptionality of western modernity and their suspension from it. I also argue, that narratives of ‘pasts’, ‘the present’ and hope for the ‘future’, challenge academic discourses of migration that centre on the notion of ‘bare life’, where historical and political time is suspended in the liminal space of the camp.