A symbolic picture of Greek police approaching migrants on a highway | Photo: EPA/Dimitris Tosidis
A symbolic picture of Greek police approaching migrants on a highway | Photo: EPA/Dimitris Tosidis

Three Greek border guards and one policemen were charged with assaulting asylum seekers on Lesbos. The officials were charged on Saturday after an internal investigation from Athens. They have been released pending trial.

The four Greek officials - three from the Greek border patrol service and one policeman - were charged, according to the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP), with "beating asylum seekers outside the Kara Tepe camp in Lesbos."

Al Araby, The New Arab, newspaper (a pan-Arab newspaper with headquarters in London), listed several more charges, including "inflicting bodily harm, torture, and breaking anti-racist laws."

AFP says that police sources confirmed on Sunday, December 13, that the men had appeared before a prosecutor on Saturday evening.

According to the website, Keep Talking Greece, the video was published on December 11 by Greek newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton.

Video posted to You Tube

In the video, four police officers appear to be kicking and punching at least one migrant who is on the ground, at the side of the road, sometimes out of sight. His legs flail around and there appears to be a struggle.

Kicks and punches

A second migrant had already been handcuffed and was being held by one officer - with his hands behind his back. After what appears to be a scuffle with the migrant on the ground, who is, at one point, thrown down and out of sight of the camera, the officer marches one handcuffed migrant away from the scene, along the side of the road.

At one point, he holds his baton high in the air, looking like he is threatening to hit the handcuffed migrant marching in front of him, then he knees him from behind as they walk.

Throughout the scene, cars continue to pass, two men chat behind a fence a few meters away and someone who looks like a migrant comes near to where the officers are about to pick up a bag and then also walks away.

An investigation led by Athens’ police internal affairs unit led to the charges being brought, after a video of the events, which was shared on social media channels, showed "four men beating two asylum seekers," reported AFP.

Police have launched an investigation

According to that agency, the asylum seekers had been returning from a local supermarket when they came across the police. Even after handcuffing the asylum seekers, the officials in the video continued hitting the migrants.

On December 11, the police announced they would be investigating the matter, and charges were brought the next day. Police sources told AFP that the officials claimed they had hit the asylum seekers because "they were attacking passing cars and [were] drunk."

Keep talking Greece says that the President of the Panhellienic Association of Border Guards told journalists that the police had been called "following complaints that the victims were stopping drivers on the road." The President added that the migrants had resisted arrest and had "sworn and spat" at the officers.

Turkey accuses Greece of 'inhumane treatement'

Commenting on other allegations of Greek officials mistreating migrants and asylum seekers, the Turkish based Daily Sabah, quoted the Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who posted his accusations on Twitter. According to the Daily Sabah, Soylu accused Greek coast guard units of "leveling up the torture and inhumane treatment every day."

The Turkish authorities went on to say that the Greek coast guard had "severely battered" some migrants during the alleged pushbacks. They also say that Frontex was complicit in these acts, and that this is being "ignored," by the European Union. They claimed some of the migrants, who have been subsequently "rescued" by the Turkish coast guard, had scarring on their bodies.

The asylum seekers who were beaten, are, according to AFP, still accommodated in the Kara Tepe camp, which currently houses about 7,300 migrants.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s latest figures from October 2020, there were a total of 19,900 migrants and asylum seekers on the islands at that point. The majority of those come from Afghanistan. Just over 15,000 people arrived in Greece this year alone, and there are more than 100,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers present in Greece at the moment.

Keep talking Greece commented that "incidents of police violence have dramatically increased recently." They accuse the Greek police of following an "American model" of policing towards migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

 

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