By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
Greek law enforcement officers at the Meric (Martisa or Evros) River routinely return asylum seekers and migrants to Turkey, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.
The river, which flows from Bulgaria through Greece and Turkey, is often used by irregular migrants who want to cross to Greece from Turkey.
"The officers in some cases use violence and often confiscate and destroy the migrants’ belongings," the report said.
The report also included a video showing migrants who were beaten and pushed backed into Turkey by Greek authorities.
Todor Gardos, Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, whose quotes were also included in the statement, said: “People who have not committed a crime are detained, beaten, and thrown out of Greece without any consideration for their rights or safety.”
Gardos said the Greek authorities should immediately investigate the repeated allegations of illegal pushbacks.
“Despite government denials, it appears that Greece is intentionally, and with complete impunity, closing the door on many people who seek to reach the European Union through the Evros [Meric] border,” Gardos said.
The report said Human Rights Watch interviewed 26 asylum seekers and other migrants in Greece in May, and in October and November in Turkey and they described 24 incidents of pushbacks across the Meric River from Greece to Turkey.
"Most incidents took place between April and November. All of those interviewed reported hostile or violent behavior by Greek police and unidentified forces wearing uniforms and masks without recognizable insignia," the report said.
The report said abuse included beatings with hands and batons, kicking, and, in one case, the use of what appeared to be a stun gun.
"The European Commission, which provides financial support to the Greek government for migration control, including in the Evros [Meric] region, should urge Greece to end all summary returns of asylum seekers to Turkey, press the authorities to investigate allegations of violence, and open legal proceedings against Greece for violating European Union laws," the report said.