Videos show illegal pushback of refugees to Turkey

German weekly obtains footage showing masked men transporting people from Greek side of Evros River to Turkish side

Magda Panoutsopoulou   | 19.12.2019
Videos show illegal pushback of refugees to Turkey


German weekly Der Spiegel recently published video footage from Greece’s border with Turkey showing masked men forcing dozens of refugees and migrants back to the Turkish side.

The 11 videos obtained by the weekly news magazine show the men, some of whom are dressed in military style clothing without any national emblems, transporting groups of people from the Greek side of the Evros River to the Turkish side in a small rubber dinghy.

“We have been saying this for years: that pushback operations against people entering Greece take place in Evros,” Eva Cosse, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Anadolu Agency.

Human Rights Watch and many others have repeatedly documented and published evidence on how Greek law enforcement officers routinely summarily return asylum seekers and migrants to Turkey, but Greek authorities have repeatedly denied the allegations despite the evidence, Cosse said.

“Now that perpetrators have been caught on camera, the Greek authorities can’t continue turning a blind eye,” she added.

But the pushbacks are not the only issue the Greek government has to resolve.

Hundreds of unaccompanied children are facing inhumane living conditions on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Children face unsanitary and insecure conditions sleeping rough, sometimes in the open, in formal and informal parts of the Moira refugee camp on the island, Greece’s largest reception and identification center and one of five so-called hotspots, Human Rights Watch has stated in a report.

“Hundreds of lone children on Lesbos are left to fend for themselves, sleeping on mats and cardboard boxes, exposed to worsening and dangerous weather conditions,” it said.

According to Human Rights Watch, in mid-October, there where 1,061 unaccompanied children registered on Lesbos Island in the Moira refugee camp. Of these, 587 were registered as living in a large tent designed to temporarily accommodate all new arrivals until they go through the process of registration and identification.

Those who do not find a space in the already crowded tents have to sleep in open areas in or outside the camp.

Women and girls also faced inhumane conditions, forcing them to live in fear.

Research conducted by Human Rights Watch on Lesbos Island in October found that women and girls lacked safe access to resources such as water, sanitation and medical care and were even afraid to leave their tents to use the toilets or bathing facilities.

Parents also did not allow their daughters to go out for fear of being harassed.

According to Greek law, the authorities are obliged to identify groups of people that are at high risk like pregnant women, new mothers and people with disabilities.

Human Rights Watch said this was not the case for the women and girls they interviewed.

Since the beginning of 2019, 53,462 asylum seekers have reached islands in the Aegean Sea from Turkey, according to official data.

As of Dec. 2, 2019, the Moira reception and identification center was holding nearly 16,800 people in a facility with a capacity for fewer than 3,000, Human Rights Watch has stated.

“It is high time for Greek judicial authorities and the parliament to establish an inquiry into all such allegations. They should exercise their powers to examine the scope of these illegal actions and determine whether they amount to a de facto government policy,” said Cosse.

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