Greek forces brutally push back and arrest refugees or migrants to throw away to Turkish borders, human rights group reports.
Greece has been violently and illegally detaining refugees and migrants before pushing back them to Turkish territory, in contravention of human rights obligations under international and European Union law, Amnesty International reveals.
The report titled Greece: Violence, lies and pushbacks showed how Greek forces conduct illegal pushbacks at land and sea.
Especially in the Evros region, at the land border with Turkey, Greece used excessive violence against immigrants and refugees in February and March 2020 after Turkish decision to open its land borders.
The research documented that Greek human rights violations have been continuing and have become “an entrenched practice.”
“It is clear that multiple arms of the Greek authorities are closely coordinating to brutally apprehend and detain people who are seeking safety in Greece, subjecting many to violence, then transferring them to the banks of the Evros river before summarily returning them to Turkey,” Adriana Tidona, Migration researcher for Europe at Amnesty International said.
Furthermore, Tidona underlined that violent pushbacks have become “the de facto Greek border control policy” in the Evros region.
“The level of organization needed to execute these returns, which affected around 1000 people in the incidents we documented, some numerous times and sometimes via unofficial detention sites, shows just how far Greece is going to illegally return people and cover it up,” she added.
The refugees who exposed or witnessed the violence said that uniformed Greek officials, as well as men in civilian clothing, blow with sticks or truncheons, kick, punche, slap, and push, sometimes resulting in severe injuries.
They were often humiliated by Greek forces and subjected to strip searches, sometimes in the presence of women and children.
The physical and psychological violence sometimes amounts to torture due to the severity of the incidents.
An individual said “he and his group were forced off the boat and into the water near an islet in the middle of the Evros river, where they remained stranded for days.”
“A man who was forced off the boat could not swim and screamed for help as he bobbed up and down in the water and was seen to be swept away with the current,” the report wrote.
Greek forces not only push back refugees in border areas, but also detain them far inside their mainland before returning them to the Evros region, which is illegal.
Four people told Amnesty International they were arbitrarily detained in northern Greece and sent to Turkey.
A Syrian man, who had been registered as an asylum seeker for a year, was arrested in a northwestern city and transferred to a detention camp near the Turkish border.
“Before I entered the bus, I showed the police my asylum card, but they took it from me, shredded it, and told me to get into the bus,” he said.
Pakistani migrant Musaddiq Javed, who tried to cross the Greek border to reach Europe in 2019, said that he was arrested by police who then handed him over to soldiers, who took his cash and phone.
"We stayed in Greece for four days and whenever we wanted food they would beat us up,” Javed said.
"The soldiers took me to a room, blindfolded me and put out their cigarettes on my hand and they would hit my feet.” He was then thrown into the Marista river on the Turkish border before where he was rescued.
The Greek policy contradicts the EU Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which “strictly adheres to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as relevant international law.”