An investigation is currently under way into claims that several Turkish asylum-seekers have been forcibly returned to their country at the Greek border, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said on Tuesday.
Speaking on 24/7 radio, Mouzalas reiterated his opposition to pushbacks, saying that such actions are a violation of international law and human rights.
The minister was referring to unconfirmed reports that Greek security forces have summarily returned to Turkey several people, including one journalist, over the past few weeks.
The claims made earlier this month provoked a reaction from the Council of Europe and the UN refugee agency, which said that it is “of vital importance” that Greek authorities comprehensively investigate the allegations.
Nils Muiznieks, the Council’s commissioner for human rights, also called for an immediate probe.
“No doubt Greece has been under immense migratory pressure in recent years and the help received from other EU member states has been far from effective in alleviating both this pressure and the suffering of refugees in the country,” Muiznieks said.
“However, even in particularly challenging situations, states cannot resort to practices – such as collective expulsions – which are not in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the non-refoulement principle enshrined in the UN Refugee Convention,” he added.
“The refugee crisis caught us – Greece as well as Europe – unprepared,” Mouzalas conceded on Tuesday, adding, however, that the European Union should introduce a mechanism to speed up the processing of asylum claims at the point of entry and relocations.