EU authorities are calling on Greece to respect the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers with reports emerging that many face being physically pushed back at the border.
The European Union has called on Greece to investigate increasingly violent pushbacks of refugees by its forces once they have entered Greek territory.
On Monday, the European parliament held a meeting to question Greek ministers about reports that have been verified by non-governmental organisations and direct testimonies that Greek forces are acting illegally by attempting to stop refugees from entering the country.
Greek Ministers for Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrisochoidis, and for Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, have dismissed the accusations, describing them as “fake news.”
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has however urged the Greek government to take more seriously and investigate “multiple reports of pushbacks by Greek authorities at the country’s sea and land borders, possibly returning migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey after they had reached Greek territory or territorial waters.”
The parliament also heard evidence from Forensic Architecture, a multidisciplinary research group based at Goldsmiths University in London which uses architectural techniques and technologies to investigate cases of state violence and violations of human rights around the world.
Forensic Architecture presented their investigation about Mohammed al Arab, a 22-year-old from Aleppo who was shot dead at the Greek-Turkish border in March of this year.
“It is highly probable that he was shot by Greek soldiers, and very unlikely that he was shot by Turkish soldiers,” said Stefanos Levidis speaking to the Financial Times.
Around the same time that al Arab was killed, Forensic Architecture, working with Bellingcat, looked into the killing of a Pakistani national, Muhammad Gulzar, who was also shot dead at the Greek-Turkish border.
In that investigation, they found that in all likelihood Gulzar had been shot dead by Greek security forces.
During the hearing the EU commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, called on Greece to say, “We can’t protect EU borders by violating European rights.”
A majority of members of the EU parliament has called on their own authorities to make sure that Greece complies with EU legislation on asylum and if necessary impose sanctions if violations are confirmed.
Some, however, may feel that Greek authorities may be unable to effectively investigate themselves over this issue.
In Greece, the opposition party Syriza has spoken out against government policies on refugees and migrants.
The centre-left party Syriza accused the government, led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, of going “backwards” in their treatment of asylum seekers.
Over the past year, the Greek government has been criticised over its treatment of vulnerable refugees who face being forced to stay in overcrowded accommodation.
The Greek government is also introducing new rules that it says will increase the transparency of charities, however, critics have said that it could have a chilling effect on NGOs helping migrants.
One critic of the newly proposed rules said that it will result in the ministry evaluating “independent organizations that often criticize it... it should not have such (powers) ... it’s a question of impartiality.”
The UNHCR has also warned the Greek government against cutting aid for housing refugees which may leave them homeless and resulting in unsafe sleeping conditions.
Recent violations of asylum seekers
The Turkish Coast Guard recently rescued 65 asylum seekers in three boats in the Aegean Sea, security sources said when speaking to Anadolu Agency.
The sources said the Greek coastguard pushed two life rafts carrying thirty-six people back towards the coast of Karaburun district in Turkey’s İzmir province.
They added that the Greek coastguard did the same thing to a rubber boat carrying twenty-nine people off the coast of Aslan Burnu in Izmir.
All of the asylum seekers were transferred to the provincial immigration authority.