Greek authorities have announced the extension of a barbed-wire fence on the border with Turkey to cover a total of 40 kilometres. Mounting evidence of push-backs rejected as misinformation by the Greek government. Anti-migrant protestors have attacked health facilities outside Moria.

A 12.5 kilometre barbed-wire fence established in 2012 will according to Greek authorities be extended to cover 40 kilometres along its Northern border with Turkey. The official aim of the 63 million Euro project that comes amid tensions with Turkey is to prevent migrants from accessing Greek territory.

A research published by the New York Times relying on evidence from several independent watchdogs, academic researchers, and the Turkish Coastguard documents the push-back of at least 1072 people in 31 separate expulsions from the Greek island of Rhodes. The information adds to mounting evidence of push-backs from the Greek islands. In his response Greek Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis denies any wrongdoing and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated  “We’ve been the victims of a significant misinformation campaign”. However, the Un Refugee Agency (UNHCR): “firmly reiterates its call on Greece to refrain from such practices and to seriously investigate these reports, which include a series of credible and direct accounts that have been recorded by the UNHCR Office in Greece,” and specialist in international law and former UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants François Crépeau, accused Greek authorities of exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to close its border: “The coronavirus has provided a window of opportunity to close national borders to whoever they wanted”.

In a statement Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): “strongly condemns the violent attacks on its clinic and the new government COVID-19 facility outside Moria…” Anti-migrant protestors were shouting, threatening MSF staff, throwing stones into the facility where women and children were undergoing treatment and starting a fire outside the clinic.

The effects of the Greek government’s reduction of the deadline for refugees to leave accommodation in camps, apartments and hotels (to one month after receiving their status) and the related announcement of evictions of up to 11,000 people are visible in Athens. Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) has documented the cases of vulnerable families arriving from the Moria hotspot forced to sleep rough in Victoria Square. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic the 42 people including 22 children, three of which were new-born babies, were left homeless in destitution exposed to police brutality, arbitrary arrests and the constant threat of new evictions and transfer to become unofficial residents of camps on the mainland offering harsh conditions. The restriction of movement of all third country nationals residing in reception facilities across the country, first imposed on 21 March 2020 on public health grounds relating to COVID-19, remains in place until 31 August 2020.

According to statistics compiled by RSA, the Greek Appeals Authority issued 11,057 decisions on the merits of appeals during the first six months of 2020, 94.5% concerned mainland appeals. The overall international protection rate dropped from 8.1% to 2.9% between the first and the second quarter of 2020 and the drop was most significant on the islands where it fell from 24.8% to 11.7%.

Following relocations over the summer to Belgium, Finland and Portugal, 16 unaccompanied children have been relocated from Greece to France. 11 EU member states have pledged up to 2000 relocation places in total under a Commission scheme originally targeting 1600 unaccompanied and vulnerable children.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.