On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on Greece to launch an “urgent” investigation into numerous reports of alleged pushbacks of asylum seekers to neighboring Turkey committed by the Greek Authorities.
“The High Commission has repeatedly expressed its concern to the Greek government” on the matter and “calls for an urgent investigation into incidents reported by the media, many of which have been confirmed by NGOs and the pushbacks of rejected immigrants”, the agency states in a press release.
“The relevant charges were multiplied in March, stating that groups of people who arrived in Greek territory were forced to leave the country after short procedures”, the text continues.
The European Union reacted after the call, which was made the day before by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“Our position on these allegations is well known. I can only reiterate our position, we expect the Greek authorities to shed full light on these issues, to investigate and take the necessary measures, “said Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz in Brussels.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees stressed that Greece “has the right to protect its borders from illegal immigration, but at the same time to respect international human rights law and the protection of refugees”.
The UN agency added that the number of alleged deportations had recently increased on the Greek-Turkish maritime border, referring to alleged pushbacks from the Greek Coast Guard to the Aegean Sea.
Many NGOs for the rights of refugees have repeatedly called on the Greek authorities in recent months to investigate the matter following statements by asylum seekers who have been illegally extradited by the Greek authorities to Turkey.
The IOM said on Thursday that it had received “reports of arbitrary arrests of migrants in Greece and deportations to Turkey, as well as incidents of violence against migrants by some members of the border guards”.
Greek media published a video of a Turkish port drone on Monday showing “Greek Coast Guard forces removing an engine from a boat carrying refugees in the Aegean before leaving it on the high seas between the Greek island of Lesvos and the Turkish coast.
The Greek government has stepped up its policy towards asylum seekers and increased patrols at sea and land borders with the help of Frontex, the European Border Protection Agency.
The Deputy Head of the Immigration Policy Department of the SYRIZA Parliamentary Group George Psychogios issued a statement calling on the government to take a stand and stop the deportations.
Every day we see pictures and complaints about the pushbacks of people at sea. In fact, the phenomenon has been exacerbated to such an extent, that both the High Commission and the International Organization for Migration issued a statement on the subject.
This shameful practice of the Greek government must stop now. It actively endangers human lives and families with children and violates the basic principles of International Law, the Law of the Sea and the European Convention on Human Rights, undermining, among other things, a powerful bargaining card.
Instead of calling for an exemption from international law and solidarity with violations, as the Visegrad countries do, the Minister better show his teeth to the European Partners and EU bodies to take immediate steps to tackle the situation on a European level, and there should be a fair sharing of responsibility in the Member States.
Through the current practices of pushbacks, the country is exposed and turns into a black sheep, the feeling of solidarity of our people is directly affected, but especially the women and men of the Coast Guard who, with self-denial and amidst adverse conditions from 2015 to In 2019, rescued 430,000 people at sea”. /ibna