At the Greek borders, refugees continue to be returned

Turkish gendarmes in the Ispala district, on the border with Greece, after the bodies of seven migrants were found, February 3, 2022.

“At a time when Greece welcomes Ukrainians, carries out cruel pushbacks against Afghans and others also fleeing war and violence,” denounces Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a report dated April 7.

The NGO claims that the Greek authorities are using immigrants settled in Greece to help them return newcomers from Turkey. Sixteen interviewed Afghan asylum seekers reported that the pilots of the boats taking them back to the Turkish coast spoke Arabic or South Asian languages. Police have reportedly promised passports to immigrants who agree to work with them. “It is undeniable that the Greek government is responsible for illegal returns at the border and the use of intermediaries to carry out these acts does not relieve it of any responsibility”said Bill Frelick, director of HRW’s refugee law program.

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Abo Khassem, a 25-year-old Syrian who has tried three times to cross the Evros, the river that separates Turkey from Greece, also confirms to world that he “command”from “men in black uniforms with balaclavas, armed with bats” who confiscated their phones, money and documents before being violently returned to the Turkish coast”, were accompanied by immigrants who spoke Arabic”.

« To scare us into getting into the canoes, the men fired. They forced us to undress… The repression was particularly violent. Four people were hospitalized upon their return to Turkey, one man had broken ribs. I came out with bruises and a sprain…” says Abo Khassem, still stuck in Turkey.

Cases brought before the ECHR

Despite the investigations published in various media, the statements of the High Commissioner for Refugees, who told “at least 540 incidents” on the Greek borders since the beginning of 2020, Athens has always denied having resorted to “pushbacks”, a practice contrary to the principle of non-refoulement that is the basis of the Geneva Refugee Convention.

At the end of March, the Greek Transparency Authority appointed by the government to investigate these rejections declared that it had not found ” no test ” which allows to affirm that there are Greek officers involved. A score of associations question the independence of this body, and have asked to have access to the full investigation. “Part of the investigation was carried out with the support of the Greek police, while some officers are the suspected perpetrators of these illegal ‘pushbacks’. »NGOs are outraged.

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