Greece accused of migrant ‘pushbacks’ at Turkey border
ATHENS – Agence France-Presse
Hundreds of migrants including children and families have been illegally returned from Greece to Turkey despite Greek authorities being repeatedly warned about the practice, three non-governmental organizations said on Dec. 12.
Migrants being forced back over the border, in violation of international law, has become the “new normality” at the border crossing with Turkey in Greece’s northeast Evros region, the three Greek organizations said.
The testimonies of 39 people who attempted to cross the border to Europe, collected in detention centers near the border since the spring, were published in a report by the Greek Council for Refugees, ARSIS and HumanRights360.
In their testimonies, the migrants describe being intercepted and detained by people wearing police or military uniforms, sometimes with a hood covering their face, who then forced them onto a boat to cross the Evros (or Meriç) River back to Turkey.
Some migrants described being physically abused or robbed by the individuals, who mostly spoke Greek.
The report “constitutes evidence of the practice of pushbacks being used extensively and not decreasing, regardless of the silence and denial by the responsible public bodies and authorities”, the NGOs said.
The “particularly wide-spread practice” leaves the “state exposed and posing a threat for the rule of law in the country,” they added.
The Greek office of the U.N. refugee agency also said it had recorded a “significant number of testimonies on informal forced returns” through the Evros border.
“On many occasions, we have addressed those concerns to the Greek authorities requesting the investigation of incidents,” the UNHCR office said.
“The state’s response so far to these practices has not produced the results required for an effective access to asylum.”
Greek authorities have denied involvement in the migrant returns and have announced investigations into potential militia action, without result so far.
The flow of migrants across the Greek-Turkish land border has almost tripled this year, according to Greece’s migration ministry, with 14,000 people intercepted so far compared to 5,400 in 2017.