Refugees and migrants trying to set foot on the European Union via Greece are being unlawfully pushed back to Turkey by Greek coast and border guards, Amnesty International said in a report published Tuesday.
The 40-page report, titled “Frontier Europe: Human Rights Abuses on Greece’s border with Turkey,” is based on some 30 interviews with would-be immigrants that were intercepted while trying to cross the Aegean Sea or the country's northeastern border with Turkey in the Evros region.
It documents the life-endangering practices used by Greek authorities against migrants and asylum-seekers who do not get a chance to challenge their expulsion.
Those who do make it, the report says, are often detained in appalling, even humiliating conditions.
Several immigrants complained that the guards had taken their belongings, including money, family photos and heirlooms, and in some cases thrown them into the sea, according to the report.
“The number of push back stories we collected is extremely alarming. It suggests that the Greek authorities are employing this practice on a regular basis, despite the fact that it is unlawful,” said Jezerca Tigani, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.
Many of the would-be immigrants that were pushed back to Turkey told the organization how their inflatable boats were rammed, knifed, or nearly capsized during the operations.
“What’s happening along the Greek border does not just shame Greece. It shames the EU as a whole,” Tigani said.
Greece is the main gateway into the EU for migrants from Asia and the Middle East. The number of people crossing illegally into Greece via the Evros border has dropped since the government constructed a 10.5 kilometer fence along the frontier. But strengthened security at Evros has intensified the influx via the islands of the eastern Aegean
On Monday Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias called on the EU to offer Greece more help with undocumented migrants, including other countries accepting more immigrants to ease the pressure on Greek society.
The public order minister told BBC’s Hardtalk program that undocumented immigrants in Greece were “a huge burden on our society.”
“The pressure that is being applied on Greek society and to the systems that support it are enormous,” he said. “I am saying the EU is not helping us enough” Dendias said calling for more EU funding and an agreement to share the number of migrants being accepted into European societies.