Greece: violent ‘pushbacks’ of asylum seekers


Documentation is mounting of Greek authorities carrying out violent “pushbacks” of asylum-seekers and migrants at the country’s land and sea borders with Turkey. The practice violates EU and international law, but in the past four months human rights groups and media outlets have documented an uptick in its use at the Greece-Turkey land border. Rights groups have also documented the abandonment of asylum-seekers in “floating tents” without any means of propulsion in the Aegean Sea, and masked men sabotaging boats carrying asylum-seekers. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has urged Greece to investigate.

The spike in pushbacks began in March following a highly politicized showdown between Turkey and the European Union over refugee hosting. This was sparked when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan abrogated his deal with the EU, declaring he would no longer prevent asylum-seekers from leaving the country. In response, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowed to turn people back from the country’s border.

Mitsotakis’ government has taken a hardline approach to migration policy since coming into office last summer. Oxfam International and the Greek Council for Refugees jointly said that Greece’s overhauled asylum law, which came into effect in January, is “designed to deport people rather than offer them safety and protection.”

From The New Humanitarian, July 7

  1. Greece facing lawsuit for pushback of more than 180 migrants

    Greek NGO Legal Centre Lesvos announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the Greek state at the European Court of Human Rights “for a massive [illegal] pushback operation of over 180 migrants caught in a storm near Crete.” The NGO will be representing 11 Syrian nationals who were among those pushed back to Turkey in October. (Jurist)