Greek authorities continue to ignore interim measures by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as well as distress calls. Turkiye deemed a safe third country by Greece for Afghans and Syrians has increased efforts to return refugees to these countries. Greece continues to apply “systematic detention of asylum seekers” despite mounting international critique.
As Greek authorities are again under scrutiny over systematic pushbacks, new incidents continue to be reported. A report from the UN Special Rapporteur Human Rights of Migrants recently confirmed that: “In Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become de facto general policy”. In an Opinion piece Pavlos Eleftheriadis professor of law at the University of Oxford describes how “The rule of law is sinking in Greek waters,” urging the Greek government to act as it “can’t, in good faith, continue to ignore pushback allegations”.
Meanwhile, reports of Greek authorities continue to ignore interim measures by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) alerts to people on the move stranded in the Evros region along the borders of Turkiye. The region is the scene of tension between the neighboring countries and recently Greek authorities denied involvement in a shooting at the Evros border reportedly killing an Afghan national inside Turkish territory – Turkish media alleged shots were fired from within Greece. On 10, the NGO hotline Alarm Phone demanded the immediate evacuation of refugees from a small islet in the Evros river, stating “For more than 48 hours we are again in contact with a group of 28 Kurdish refugees from Syria (among them several children) who are stranded on an islet in the river of Evros near Soufli”. According to the organisation: “These people have been suffering for days despite a decision of the European Court of Human Rights which was issued on the 3rd of June 2022, stating “under Rule 39, that the applicants should not be removed until further notice and be provided with food, water and adequate medical care as needed until further notice”. Alarm Phone reported on 14 June, of 36 people including 12 children in distress in the Aegean Sea off Samos. With a vessel from the Hellenic Coast Guard approaching the people in distress the organisation warned of their potential pushback and could later confirm that they had been intercepted and returned by the Turkish Coast Guard despite having reached Greek waters. Alarm Phone condemned the “non-assistance” by Greece. Aegean Boat Report warned on 16 June of “52 People In Imminent Danger Of Being Pushed Back From Lesvos”.
Beyond the pushbacks via land and sea, Greek deterrence measures include deeming Turkiye a safe third country for asylum seekers from main countries of origin including Syria and Afghanistan and accordingly the country considers a large number of applications inadmissible. However, the risks in Turkiye are illustrated by the confirmation from the ministry of the interior that 18,256 Afghans have been deported to the Taliban-controlled country since flights to Afghanistan were resumed on 27 January. Further, the government has introduced new restrictions of movement for refugees defining quotas of foreigners allowed to reside in local areas and is reportedly looking to “relocate” one million Syrians to Idlib in northwestern Syria.
A Legal Note from Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) reveals persisting systematic detention of asylum seekers in Greece. According to the note: “Greece continues to systematically impose deprivation of liberty against asylum seekers and to expose people seeking protection to serious violations of fundamental rights and to unsuitable conditions in pre-removal centres and police stations. The practice persists despite sharp criticism and mounting condemnations of the country by international bodies”. The note includes statistics on pre-removal detention orders issued in 2021 revealing that the detention rate for deportation (L 3386/2005) was 99,5 per cent and for return (L 3907/2011) 65 per cent respectively.
The cause of a fire reported in the Elonas camp in Athens hosting 1,100 people including many families and children remains unknown. At least two people including a 12-year old boy was hospitalised with breathing difficulties. Firefighters were working to contain the fire that had destroyed several containers and a storage unit.
For further information:
- ECRE, Greece: Criminalisation of Refugees Continue as Teenagers Are Again Convicted of Moria Fire, Deployments of Border Police in Evros While ECtHR Rulings Are Ignored, Ombudsman Questions Pushback ‘Investigations’, June 2022
- ECRE, AIDA 2021 Update: Greece, June 2022
This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.