Greece, iron fist against migrants, complaint by NGOs: “refoulements are illegal and abuses”

Greece, iron fist against migrants, complaint by NGOs: "refoulements are illegal and abuses"


ROME – The constant reminders of the European Court of Human Rights and the complaints of non-governmental organizations are of no use: in Greece, hospitality is under attack. The government of Athens reports that in the first four months of 2022 it blocked around 40,000 people attempting to enter Europe across the Evros river, on the border with Turkey. At the same time he denies any involvement in the pushbacks carried out at the border precisely in the Evros area, labeling the reports as Turkish propaganda. Athens has also asked the European Union for the funds needed to strengthen that side of the border, after having already unilaterally declared Turkey a “safe third country” for refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria.

Daily pushbacks. Rejections at the border have by now become “normal everyday life”, writes the Greek Refugee Council in one of its latest reports, which together with the NGO Human Rights 360 in early June he had collected reports of fifty-two Syrian refugees abandoned for several days on a small island in the Evros river. Among them were children and vulnerable people. They had no food, water, sanitation or assistance. Human Rights 360 he had alerted the authorities asking to intervene to protect them, but received no response. And there was no reaction even following the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights.

Refugees brought to Turkey. “After days of silence we learned that all the refugees have been taken to Turkey”, says Evgenia Kouniaki, from Human Rights 360. “On the night of June 4th, a group of policemen, without lights, reached the islet in a boat and arrested them. The officers took them to the police station, then to the river and finally put them on boats. Now they are all in Turkey, with no legal status and no aid”. In March a group of thirty-four people had experienced similar vicissitudes and so in May. In both cases the European Court of Human Rights had also moved, in vain. But the most dramatic moment occurred in the month of March, when during one of these border operations a four-year-old boy drowned in the waters of the river.

Summary deportations. In a recent report Human Rights Watch he claims that the border police are using immigrants for summary deportations. From a series of interviews with people who have lived the experience of refoulement, it has emerged that most of the time it is men in hoods with black balaclavas who speak Arabic or South Asian languages. Before being rejected, the migrants are deprived of their cell phones and of any tool that could be used to document the abuses.

The (failed) attempt to deny. The government firmly denies any involvement in the pushbacks and a research conducted by the Transparency Authority would seem to prove them right: there is no proof of the deportations, therefore no proof of the violations. The investigation, concluded in March 2022, was born following complaints from the Organization Lighthouse Report and the German weekly Der Spiegel. But then the Authority slipped by distraction: after making the results of the investigation official, it published the list of people interviewed online, with their contact details. The file was removed shortly after, but had already started circulating among insiders. Thus it was discovered that out of sixty-five voices heard to verify the rejections, only four were of migrants, only one came from the world of NGOs, no testimony of theUNHCR. All the other interviewees were police officers, representatives of the church world and institutions.

The “real” refugees are not Syrians or Afghans. If it provides for mass deportations for Syrians and Afghans, the Greek government instead has an eye for those it defines as the “real” refugees: the Ukrainians. This is denounced by a report signed by Save the Children, Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees. Athens dedicates an efficient system of protection made up of economic subsidies, health care and housing to Ukrainians. The difference in treatment is such that in the Serres refugee camp in the north of the country, some Afghan asylum seekers have had to leave their containers to make room for the Ukrainians.


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