The UN and other rights groups have slammed Greece for using brute force against hapless refugees, endangering their lives at sea.

Turkey has been a key transit point for migrants aiming to cross into Europe for a new life, especially for those fleeing war and persecution. 

Thousands of migrants have been camping at Turkey's border with Greece after Ankara declared in late February that it would no longer stop them from going to Europe, accusing the EU of not upholding its part of the 2016 refugee deal. 

Turkish officials on Monday announced that the Turkish Coast Guard rescued 65 asylum seekers in three separate boats in the Aegean Sea. According to the sources, the Greek coastguard pushed the two boats of asylum seekers back to the Turkish coast which were carrying thirty six people. 

Greek coast guards are known for their ruthless behaviour toward refugees. They previously tried to sink boats as they tried to enter the Greek islands.

Turkey currently hosts almost four million refugees, mostly Syrians - this makes it the country that hosts the most in the world. The Turkish leadership has time and again urged Europe to step up their efforts to ensure those seeking asylum are treated fairly and not pushed away by using brute force. 

As Germany is set to take over the European Union’s rotating presidency, Deutsche Welle reported that the country has plans to tackle long-standing reform of EU asylum rules. Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has also called for setting up new asylum centres at the external borders of the European Union to screen asylum seekers before they enter Europe. 

Although Germany seems to be in favour of the fair distribution of asylum seekers across the EU member states, possible resistance against any kind of mandatory distribution mechanism awaits the country. 

Recently, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on Germany to place refugee protection at the top of its agenda during its EU presidency of six months. The agency also stressed the importance of protecting those seeking asylum amid the Covid-19 pandemic and urged the European Union to take further steps to provide better protection for forcibly displaced people in Europe and abroad. The UNHCR is also calling for a “predictable mechanism” to disembark and relocate people rescued at sea.

Why people seek asylum

Despite the decisive calls from the UNHCR and the sensitivity surrounding this issue, asylum seekers have been facing harsh conditions - the worst affected are predominantly the elderly and children. Furthermore, the Greek government has been abusing them by firing tear gas shells, plastic bullets, sinking boats, hurling sound bombs and using water cannons to prevent them from entering the country.

Recently, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam International warned Greece that the new Greek asylum system is designed to deport people rather than offer them safety and protection which means that people who have fled violence and persecution, have little chance of a fair asylum procedure, and even families with children are regularly detained in inhumane conditions.

Despite all these facts and severe conditions, asylum seekers are still keen on crossing the border and reaching Europe for hope and peace. They all have different reasons for this.

In March, 21-year-old Syrian national Muhammed Ali told Anadolu Agency that he wants to go and see members of his family in Germany. 

“I would like to go to Germany via Greece to meet my relatives. I will find a job with better living conditions. At first I went to Istanbul from the southern province of Hatay and then I came here.”

“Here at the border, Greece doesn’t allow us to enter, they fire at us. What can we do? There is war in Syria and Assad shoots us too,” Ali added.

Pakistani national, Ali Asan, who is 20 years old, said that he left his country due to poverty.

“We had many difficulties in Pakistan. We had no job that’s why I want to go Germany. I have relatives and friends in Germany. I can do any kind of work,” Asan said. 

Ahmed Leskeri from Afghanistan, who is 17, told Anadolu Agency that he departed largely because of the war and unemployment. 

“Everyone wants a good life. I would like to find a job in Germany and continue school. I have friends working there”.

Mustafa Besdi, an 18 year old Iranian, who says life is difficult in his home country, has been dreaming of a new start in Germany, not least because he has an uncle living there. 

Besdi believes that if he can make it to the European country, he can continue his education. He also added that most of his friends desire the same thing.  

Source: TRTWorld and agencies