EU on pushbacks: 'Greece must respect basic rights'
After illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers, EU spokesperson calls on Greek authorities to 'act in line with European values'
The EU on Tuesday called on Greek authorities to "act in line with European values" after the country last week illegally pushed back a number of asylum seekers to Turkey.
When questioned by Anadolu Agency, a spokesperson for the European Commission said it takes "allegations of pushbacks and mistreatment very seriously."
"National administrative and judicial authorities are responsible for ensuring the respect of relevant obligations, including in relation to the protection of fundamental rights," the spokesperson said.
Telling how the EU Commission has no power to investigate the misconduct of member states' law enforcement authorities, the spokesperson added: "However, in this as in other cases, we expect national authorities to investigate with a view to establish the facts and appropriately follow up on any wrong-doing."
While staying in close contact with Greek authorities, the European Commission recognizes "the complex and difficult situation at the Greek-Turkish border," which concerns not only Greece but for Europe as a whole, the spokesperson said, adding: "The commission continues to provide financial and operational support to Greece as well as to coordinate support by member states, including as regards the relocation of unaccompanied minors and other migrants in a vulnerable situation."
"In their difficult tasks, it is important that the authorities act in a way that is proportionate and in line with European values," the spokesperson stressed.
Last week, Turkey's Foreign Ministry released a statement calling on Greece to stop pushing asylum seekers back from their borders.
The statement came after two separate incidents on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 when Greek forces assaulted groups of asylum seekers, took their valuables, and left them stranded on an island in the middle of the Meric River (Maritsa) between the two countries.
On both occasions, Turkish authorities rescued a total of 51 asylum seekers and migrants – including women and children – said the statement.
Over 80,000 asylum seekers have been pushed back to Turkey in the last four years, the ministry said, accusing Greece of conducting a "systematic policy" for years on the pushbacks with the involvement of the EU border agency Frontex.
*Writing and contribution by Iclal Turan in Ankara.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.