Human Rights Watch published a report on 18th of December (see the full report in English, Turkish or Greek) regarding the violent push-backs commited by Greek law enforcement officers at the land border with Turkey in the northeastern Evros region. While the officers in some cases were said to use violence and often confiscate and destroy the migrants’ belongings, HRW urged the Greek authorities to cease summary returns to Turkey, investigate abuses, and hold those responsible to account.
“All those interviewed said they were transported to the border with Turkey in groups of 60 to 80, in military trucks or unmarked vans. In all but three cases, the agents wore face masks, black pants, or camouflage, making it impossible to recognize or identify them. In the three other cases, interviewees said police in regular blue and camouflage uniforms transported them to the river. Ten out of 26 interviewees said they were physically abused or witnessed others being ill-treated during the pushback operation.”
Via The Guardian
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released footage of men bearing prominent scars on their backs as it accused Greek police of inflicting beatings on migrants and asylum seekers illicitly entering the country across the land border from Turkey.
The US-based group said the injuries depicted in the footage, shot in Edirne in Turkey in August, were sustained during attacks by Greek police engaged in alleged “pushbacks” of people in the north-eastern Evros region.
Masked men wearing uniforms with no identifiable insignia had participated in the abuse, according to HRW. Separately, asylum seekers interviewed in Greece and Turkey described how they were stripped of their clothes and shoes and forced back across the frontier in freezing temperatures at night, often in little more than their underwear.
Women, including a pregnant 19-year-old from Syria’s Afrin region, were among those forcibly returned to Turkey, it was revealed.
“People who have not committed a crime are detained, beaten, and thrown out of Greece without any consideration for their rights or safety,” said the group’s Europe researcher, Todor Gardos. “The Greek authorities should immediately investigate the repeated allegations of illegal pushbacks.”
There was no immediate comment from Greek police or government officials, although accusations of summary returns have been vehemently rejected in the past.
But the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) supported the claims of systematic pushbacks, saying it was deeply concerned by them.
“We continue to receive a significant number of credible reports of informal forced returns to Turkey through the Evros region,” said Leo Dobbs, the agency’s spokesman in Athens. “Such reports are of deep concern to UNHCR. We have on many occasions shared these concerns with the Greek authorities and urged investigation of incidents and measures to prevent this.”
The state’s response, he said, had failed to ensure effective access to asylum and protection from forced returns of those who needed it most.
International organisations have recorded an abrupt surge in numbers crossing the heavily militarised land border. The EU border agency, Frontex, estimates arrivals rose by 203% in the region between January and October. For the first time ever, land crossings exceeded sea crossings to Aegean islands in April, when 3,600 crossed the fast-flowing Evros River as entries peaked.
Most making the treacherous journey are Turks claiming political persecution at home. However, HRW said its findings were based on interviews with people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia and Yemen.
As winter has set in there have been reports of people dying of hypothermia as they attempt to make the crossings in Evros.
Unlike Aegean islands, the land border is not affected by the controversial accord agreed in March 2016 between the EU and Turkey in a bid to staunch what were then massive flows into the bloc.
Once in Greece, asylum seekers are able to move freely around the mainland, in sharp contrast to the islands where they are forced to remain often in deplorable conditions.
HRW said it had put its findings to the Hellenic police director, Georgios Kossioris, who had not only categorically denied the pushbacks, but pledged that any incidents of misconduct, or violation of migrants’ and asylum seekers’ rights, would be thoroughly investigated