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Greece: Pushback Claims Probed without Independent Bodies, Pushbacks Continue as Reports of Refoulement from Turkey Emerge

Pushback Inquiry Kept Internally

The Greek government is considering tasking a transparency body with pushback investigations without including representatives of independent bodies or organisations. Systematic pushbacks from Greece continue as do reports of refoulement from Turkey. 26 NGOs urge Greek authorities to “disburse belated payments of cash assistance and ensure food provision” to deprived asylum seekers and refugees.

In response to demands from the European Commission for Greece to establish a human rights monitoring mechanism, the Greek government is examining the possibility of tasking the National Transparency Authority with the role. However, while representatives of the Migration Ministry, court officials and teachers would participate in such mechanism, reportedly no independent bodies or organisations would be included. The Greek government recently imposed heavy restrictions on NGOs that act in the areas of competence of the Greek coast guard, preventing efficient and independent oversight of the agency’s conduct.

Pushbacks Continue as Reports of Refoulement from Turkey Emerge

Meanwhile, pushbacks continue to occur on a daily basis, according to the Aegean Boat Report, 384 life rafts carrying 6,659 “victims of cruel and inhuman behaviour by the Greek government” have been found adrift in the Aegean Sea since March 2020. The latest incident documented on 17 October involves 23 people, including five children, of which 22 were pushed back by the Hellenic Coast Guard after arriving to the Greek island of Ikaria. Survivors of pushbacks in the Evros region have reported a trend of “third country nationals working with Greek authorities in violently expelling people from the country” to Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN). Pakistani, Afghan, Syrian, Iraqi or Moroccan nationals have allegedly been used as boat-drivers on dinghies and operational support for Greek authorities during pushback operations with the promise legal papers in exchange. According to BVMN, the exact relationship between authorities and third country nationals is difficult to assess. Though it remains unclear if promised compensations are duly exchanged, given: “the repeated assertion of this practice, it appears that the Greek authorities are operating some form of exploitation over people on the move which plays on the lack of access to asylum in the country”.
Refugee Support Aegean and Greek Council for Refugees recently filed an appeal before the High Administrative Court against the Joint Ministerial Decision designating Turkey as a safe third country for citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. On 15th October, Human Rights Watch published testimonials of Afghan nationals pushed back to Iran by the Turkish army in groups of 50–300 people at the time, some after severe beatings. “Turkish authorities are denying Afghans trying to flee to safety the right to seek asylum,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch, adding that: “Turkish soldiers are also brutally mistreating the Afghans while unlawfully pushing them back”.