Greece is being urged to create an independent monitoring process to ensure that the human rights of migrants and refugees are respected at its borders. The call was issued by the UNHCR and other rights agencies.
The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) have developed a list of 10 points to guide the creation of an Independent National Border Monitoring Mechanism in Greece.
"We welcome the Greek government's declared intention to establish such a mechanism as a positive initiative," said the UNHCR in a statement on September 14. "Greece, like any State, has a legitimate right to control its borders. However, border management must fully respect fundamental rights, including access to asylum for people in need of international protection," it added.
Greece has repeatedly come under criticism for its treatment of migrants and refugees at the border to Turkey -- border guards have been accused of pushbacks at both the Evros river and in the Aegean Sea.
Human rights groups have also recently criticized the policies of the ruling New Democracy party because it has reportedly increased border militarization following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Many observers believe this could lead to an increase in the number of Afghans fleeing the country and moving westward.
In their 'ten points' document, the UNHCR and its partners argue that establishing an independent mechanism to monitor the behavior of Greek authorities at the border is not just in the interests of migrants and refugees, but also of the Greek state because "unbiased and neutral reporting [strengthen] its accountability and [enhance] public trust."
What are the 10 points?
In a nutshell, the 10 criteria that UNHCR, OHCHR and ENNHRI want a border monitoring mechanism to fulfil are as follows:
- The mechanism should receive a broad mandate, so they can check whether all fundamental rights, "whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural," are respected during border checks, during border surveillance and at initial registration of new arrivals.
- The monitoring organizations involved need to be completely independent from any authorities involved in migration and border management.
- The monitoring organizations need to be able to operate autonomously -- to act independently from any state authorities and the like.
- The mechanism should be designed in a way that it works well within the existing system of human rights monitoring bodies.
- The people responsible need to have the institutional experience to do a good job -- e.g. to have experience in asylum law in Greece and the EU and/or in border management.
- The mechanism needs to be well funded and resourced.
- The monitoring organizations need access to relevant places and documents to do a good job -- for example, they should be allowed to do unannounced visits and have access to asylum files.
- The mechanism needs to be transparent and accountable, e.g. through regular reports.
- The monitors need to be able to communicate directly with the authorities in charge of investigations, e.g. if a migrant files a police reports, alleging they were abused by border guards.
- Greek authorities in charge of border control and migration should have to cooperate and respect the monitoring mechanism.
You can find a link to the full document here.