UNHCR urges Greece to investigate violent pushbacks of migrants

Greek policeman stand at the border to prevent migrants to enter the country Greek policeman stand at the border to prevent migrants to enter the country Breaking the News / MD

12 June 2020

UN experts and human rights organizations concerned about the alleged pushbacks of asylum seekers at the border between Greece and Turkey

In his press briefing at UNOG, Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson, called upon the Greek authorities to  urgently investigate a series of alleged incidents at the country’s sea and land borders with Turkey. Specifically, Hellenic police and border guards were accused by non-governmental organizations and in eye-witness accounts that  violence had been used against asylum seekers including the confiscation  and destruction of   their belongings, placing  them in detention centres, applying  tortures practices  and frequently  sending them back to Turkey on boats. These accusations are not new, as over the past three years alleged violent pushbacks at the border had been reported. However, the scale of alleged forced transfers from inner-city camps and detention spaces and expulsions appears to be unprecededented.

This situation started with  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s  opening of the border for migrants to enter Europe, claiming that  Turkey  could no longer handle the growing number of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. As a response, the Greek government increased its measures to protect the border swarning migrants not to attempt crossing into Greece. Moreover, on 1 March, it suspended for 30 days the possibility for anyone who crossed the border illegally to claim asylum. Although this measure was later lifted, all public  services of the Greek Asylum Service were suspended, alleging that this was aimed to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the beginning of March, about 3,000 asylum seekers arrived in Greece by land and sea, which is significantly less than in the previous months or the same period in previous years. However, the violence at the border and violations of human rights rose at an alarming rate. Stating that Greece had a legitimate right to control its borders and manage irregular migration, Ms Baloch added this had to be done by respecting international human rights law and standards for the protection of refugees. Apparently, this not fulfilled , as the alleged behaviour of the Hellenic police and border guards would constitute violations  of Greece’s international obligations in regard to the fundamental right to seek asylum and enable  asylum seekers to  access asylum procedures and ensure their protection against forced returns.

 

To learn more, please visit:

https://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2020/6/5ee33a6f4/unhcr-calls-greece-investigate-pushbacks-sea-land-borders-turkey.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/01/world/europe/greece-migrants-border-turkey.html

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/18/greece-violent-pushbacks-turkey-border

 

Author: Michele Pitta

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