Greece is one of the top destinations for migrants in Europe | Photo: Private
Greece is one of the top destinations for migrants in Europe | Photo: Private

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees slammed not only Greece but all European governments, saying the "deplorable" and illegal acts towards asylum seekers were being "normalized."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, said on Monday that his agency was "alarmed" by the "recurrent and consistent reports" claiming that the Greek coast guard is failing to assist refugees at sea.

At their worst, the reports suggest that some Greek sailors have left migrants in unsafe, overcrowded boats and in some cases even throwing people into the sea off the coast of the island of Samos, near the Greek-Turkish border. 

"Violence, ill-treatment and pushbacks continue to be regularly reported at multiple entry points at land and sea borders, within and beyond the European Union despite repeated calls ... to end such practices," Grandi said in a statement.

The UNHCR had recorded nearly 540 reported incidents of informal returns by Greece since the start of 2020. In his statement, Grandi said he feared that these "deplorable" acts were becoming "normalized."

Where else are pushbacks reportedly occurring? 

Pushbacks have also been occurring in other central and southeastern European countries, Grandi said.

"What is happening at European borders is legally and morally unacceptable and must stop. Protecting human life, human rights and dignity must remain our shared priority," he added.

The UNHCR has admonished all EU governments for failing to react to the violent reports, accusing them of preferring to erect walls and barriers than protect human life.

Grandi pointed out that not only does everyone have the right to claim asylum, but these measures would also do little to deter people fleeing war, persecution, or famine.

But, he said, they would surely "contribute to greater suffering of individuals in need of international protection, particularly women and children, and prompt them to consider different, often more dangerous routes and likely result in further deaths."

es/wd (AFP, dpa)

First published: February 21, 2022

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