The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR urges Greek authorities to investigate push-backs at sea and land borders with Turkey with mounting evidence and a steady stream of reports of new incidents. Greek police have evicted a makeshift camp at Victoria Square in Athens where people arriving from Lesbos and people evicted from their shelters were sleeping rough.

In a press release UNHCR has raised concerns with the Greek government over push backs by land and sea to Turkey: “reported in media, many of which corroborated by non-governmental organizations and direct testimonies”. In a joint investigation Lighthouse Reports, Report Mainz, and Der Spiegel have forensically analysed dozens of videos, compared them with geodata and interviewed numerous eyewitnesses to document systematic pushbacks and abuse by the Greek coastguard. The incidents include deliberate delay of rescue, aggressive maneuvers putting life’s at risk, attacks with shots fired, destruction of boats, dragging boats back into Turkish waters, or placing people on inflatable rafts towing them towards Turkey and leaving them adrift.

Several recent incidents confirm the widespread and systematic negligence and violations by the Greek coast guard. Over the weekend distress calls by the NGO Alarm Phone of a boat carrying 32 people including eleven children, several people injured and a pregnant woman in the Aegean sea were ignored for fifteen hours. On June 17 a boat in distress in Greek waters off Lesbos carrying 67 people including 27 children was ignored and left adrift by the Greek coast guard despite continued alerts by Alarm Phone with the group finally rescued by Turkish authorities.

An amendment to the controversial International Protection Act (IPA) that reduced the deadline to leave reception facilities from six months to just 30 days will potentially leave thousands of people with little alternatives to sleeping rough. Departures from centres, hotels and camps has begun this month and 800 people have left the island camps alone. The Greek police has evicted a makeshift camp on Victoria square in Athens and reportedly transferred a number of recognised refugees from the island camps to accommodation facilities. However, as reported by local media outlet efsyn: “The situation in Victoria Square is a very small example of where things can go if the Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, insists on evicting 11,000 refugees from structures and apartments, without solutions for the next day”.

The Greek Migration Ministry has opened an office offering travel documents to recognised refugees to assist their departure to other EU countries. According to Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis, Greece issue 200 to 250 travel documents a day. Recognised refugees have the right to stay in another EU country for three months, but do not have the right to work outside of Greece.

Germany is amongst the countries to respond to a call from the European Commission to relocate 1600 unaccompanied children from the Greek islands. Germany has announced the arrival of 243 children by the beginning of July on top of the 47 they have already received. Further, the state of Berlin has passed a decree proposing the relocation of 300 vulnerable refugees from the Greek island camps by 2021.

For further information:


Photo: (CC)  Fotomovimiento, January 2018

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