In a May 3 statement, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Greek government to end its practice of illegal “pushbacks” of asylum seekers at both the land and the sea borders with Turkey. Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic said she had “received a number of consistent and credible allegations concerning acts of the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants reaching the Greek islands.” Following reports of verbal and physical abuse inflicted on migrants being pushed back to Turkey, she indicated that acts by the Greek state may be in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on prohibition of torture. (Jurist)
But the practice is not confined to Greece. An analysis by The Guardian, based on United Nations and European Union figures, finds that EU member states have used illegal operations to push back at least 40,000 asylum seekers from Europe’s borders during the COVID-19 pandemic, linking these methods to the death of more than 2,000 people. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in 2020 almost 100,000 migrants arrived in Europe by sea or by land compared with nearly 130,000 in 2019 and 190,000 in 2017. Since January 2020, despite the drop in numbers, Italy, Malta, Croatia and Spain as well as Greece have accelerated a hardline migration agenda.These countries have paid non-EU states such as Libya and enlisted private vessels to intercept boats in distress at sea and push back passengers into detention centres. There have been repeated reports of people being beaten, robbed, stripped naked at frontiers or left at sea.
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