Brutal pushbacks continue off the Aegean islands and in the Evros region. The situation for Syrian refugees in Türkiye deemed safe by Greek authorities is rapidly deteriorating.

Reports of non-response and pushbacks by Greek authorities by sea and land continue. According to Aegean Boat Report, the Greek authorities and Hellenic Coast Guard remained unresponsive to alerts of 49 people in distress off Samos on a rubber boat taking in water. On the same day, the organisation warned of 44 Palestinians “in imminent danger of being pushed back by Greek authorities” after arriving on the island of Agathonisi. The NGO hotline Alarm Phone has published detailed testimonies from a group of 29 people pushed back by Greek authorities in August after being pulled to Rhodes and pushed towards Turkish waters.  A survivor describes the brutal incident where Greek officials: “took our phones, beat us up heavily and took our personal belongings. (I could hide my phone, so one phone was left with our whole group). Then, the Hellenic Coast Guard took 2 people of us (both Syrian nationals) and beat them up very hard and kept them there. Since then we don’t know anything about the 2 people – we have no contact to them anymore”. A young Turkish man went missing on 8 September while crossing the Evros river separating Greece and Türkiye. After arriving safely in Greece, he was detained along with other people seeking protection, loaded onto the same rubber boat they had arrived on where the young man lost his balance and disappeared in the water. On 11 September, Alarm Phone reported of: “a group of around 80 asylum seekers in prison in Greece, close to Evros. Several of them are in severe medical conditions and are being held in squalid conditions!”. The organisation later confirmed that the group had been held at Isaakio border guard station along with hundreds of other people and had been pushed back to Turkey.  While the Greek government denies pushbacks it has reported “averting” 150,000 irregular arrivals in 2022. As of 11 September, 10,139 people had arrived in Greece in 2022 – 5,742 by sea and 4,397 by land.

Greece deems Türkiye a safe third country for people originating from the main refugee-producing countries including Syria, allowing authorities to refuse asylum claims as inadmissible. However, the already difficult situation for the more than 3,6 million Syrian refugees in Türkiye is rapidly deteriorating. According to Le Monde, a crackdown is intensifying and raising mounting concern among Syrian refugees who are “facing increasing administrative difficulties as the government enforces tougher measures”. This development is taking place in the context of an emerging economic crisis in Türkiye and increasingly more extreme rhetoric from nationalist politicians. Sadly, such rhetoric resonates with the population and reportedly 82 per cent of the population demands Syrians to return home. According to Der Spiegel, President Erdogan has turned on Syrian refugees and hundreds of thousands of people are arrested and deported at gunpoint by Turkish authorities. Turkish media reports that 25,000 Syrians left Türkiye for the EU over recent months due to rising anti-refugee sentiments – 10,000 through resettlement and 15,000 Syrians who travelled through other means. “Many of the people around me are preparing to leave again, to go to Europe,” said Zaynab from Idlib (northwestern Syria), adding: “To some extent, we’re reliving the experience of 2015”. Reportedly, a group of Syrian refugees are planning a caravan to the EU via an online channel followed by almost 70,000 people with organizers calling on people to bring sleeping bags, tents, life jackets, water, canned food and first aid kits. The number of migrants and refugees who cross from Türkiye into Bulgaria has increased substantially. Border authorities have recorded 85,000 arrivals over the first eight months of 2022 which is more than double the number for the whole of 2021.

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