Greek police officers on their way to approach two migrants on a highway near the Turkish border | Photo: EPA/Dimitris Tosidis
Greek police officers on their way to approach two migrants on a highway near the Turkish border | Photo: EPA/Dimitris Tosidis

Nearly 30 prominent organisations have called on the Greek parliament to investigate reports of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees at the Turkish border.

Greece's government has come under scrutiny from several prominent human rights organizations for its treatment of migrants and refugees. 29 organizations sent an open letter to the parliament, urging it to investigate reports of illegal pushbacks at the country's land and sea borders with neighboring Turkey. The letter was published on October 6.

The letter called on the Greek parliament to "immediately conduct an effective, transparent and impartial investigation into allegations that personnel from the coast guard, the Greek police and the Greek army, sometimes in close cooperation with masked men in uniform, have engaged in such actions, which are not only illegal but also endanger the lives and safety of displaced people."

Tensions on the migrant issue in Greece continue to run high following last month's fires which destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp on the Aegean island of Lesbos, and widespread lockdowns at refugee camps across the country following outbreaks of COVID-19.

Calls to identify, punish officers

In their letter, the 29 groups called for appropriate disciplinary and criminal sanctions to be taken against "anyone in uniform who are found to have participated in such illegal activities, as well as their superiors." They also requested the following: ''The investigation should establish the identity and relationship of the masked men and other unidentified officers to law enforcement and take steps to hold them to account.''

The Greek government has not yet publically responded to the letter, but has in the past denied accusations of illegal pushbacks.

Allegations of pushbacks

''Despite government denials, over the years many witnesses and victims have told us about pushbacks from land and sea that put migrants' lives at risk'', said Eva Cossé, who works for Human Rights Watch. "The Parliament should step up now and do all it can to put an end to this life-threatening practice."

"The continued failure to address the serious allegations of pushbacks and violence against people on the move at Greece's borders can no longer be tolerated," said Adriana Tidona, who works as a migration researcher for Amnesty International. "We call on the Greek parliament to exercise its powers in the interest of all those who have been harmed by these actions and to ensure that there is no repetition."

Who signed the letter?

The following organizations signed the letter: Human Rights Watch (HRW), ActionAid Hellas, Amnesty International, ARSIS, The Danish Refugee Council, Equal Rights Beyond Borders, Fenix, Humanitarian Legal Aid, Hellenic Refugee Council, Greek Refugee Forum Helsinki, Hellenic Union for Human Rights, Help Refugees, HIAS Greece, HumanRights360, International Rescue Committee, INTERSOS Hellas, Josoor, Legal Center Lesvos, Lesvos Solidarity, Doctors of the World, Mobile Info Team, Network for the Rights of the Child, PRAKSIS , Refugee Legal Support, Refugee Rights Europe, Refugees International, Refugee Support Aegean, SolidarityNow and Terre des Hommes Hellas.

 

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