August 3, 2021

Greece singled out for hidden refoulements of migrants

“It’s a miracle to have made it to Greece alive! Amid the rubbish and no running water, in a muddy corner of Vathy camp on the Greek island of Samos, Fayza, a Palestinian refugee, is strangely relieved and smiling. On April 21, after a grueling sea crossing, she disembarked at 6.30 a.m. on the beach of Psili Ammos, in the southwest of Samos, with twenty-eight other passengers. This mother and her three children aged 11, 12 and 15 will be the only ones able to apply for asylum in Greece. Their companions in misfortune were all forcibly returned to Turkey by the Greek authorities. By the sea.

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Since March 2020, when Ankara threatened to let thousands of exiles stranded in Turkey pass through Greece and Europe, these forced returns operated by the Greek coast guard have intensified, and asylum seekers have given themselves the word: you should no longer call the number of the port police when entering Greek territorial waters, but a Norwegian NGO, Aegean Boat Report (ABR). “Unfortunately, all previous arrivals to Samos this year have been subject to illegal refoulements. Six pushback operations involving 326 people were carried out in 2021 from Samos, emphasizes ABR. We will continue to withhold certain information from the port police until the Greek government stops this practice. “

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Samos is not the only island affected by these pushbacks, to the point that Greece is now the subject of recurring criticism. “Between January 2020 and March 2021, the UNHCR [Haut Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés] documented around 300 reported incidents of pushbacks and illegal evictions around the Aegean Islands and the land border of Evros, notes Mireille Girard, UNHCR representative in Greece. We have compiled information and cross-referenced a variety of sources, including as much as possible witnesses to the events and people who were themselves victims. “

Implied justification

Cross-checks in support, the UN agency asks Athens to investigate these refoulements and calls “European countries, including Greece, to respect their commitments in matters of refugee protection by admitting asylum seekers at their borders, rescuing them at sea and allowing the disembarkation and registration of new asylum seekers” asylum ”. On May 3, Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, also wrote to the Greek government, requesting “Urgently” to put an end to actions breaking with “Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the prohibition of refoulement in the United Nations Refugee Convention”.

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