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HRW urges MPs to investigate pushbacks, summary expulsions in wake of Farmakonisi tragedy

Greek MPs must urgently launch an inquiry into allegations of collective expulsions, pushbacks, and dangerous maneuvers by the Greek Coast Guard on the country's sea borders with Turkey, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Twelve women and children died in the sea area of Farmakonisi, in the southern Aegean Sea, on January 20, in what survivors allege was a pushback operation in bad weather.

“Parliament should exercise its oversight powers to examine the scope of these illegal actions and determine whether they amount to a de facto policy,” the organization said in a statement.

Officers who had been on the coast guard vessel which towed the migrants’ boat told a parliamentary committee that the boat capsized when the passengers moved to one side.

The Greek Ombudsman has called for an investigation into claims that coast guard officers abused the migrants. The circumstances of the incident are being probed by prosecutors following protests by human rights groups.

“Despite government denials, we’ve heard many accounts of pushbacks that put migrants’ lives at risk” said Eva Cosse, Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch. “Parliament needs to step up and do what it can to put an end to this life-threatening practice.”

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