Greece has turned back 42,000 asylum seekers since 2020: report

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A report by Turkey’s ombudsman institution says Greece has turned away nearly 42,000 asylum seekers since 2020.

The report titled “Pushbacks and Drowning of Human Rights in the Aegean Sea”, exposes Greece’s violation of international immigration law.

According to Migration Management Directorate data used by the report, Greek forces turned back a total of 41,523 asylum seekers between 2020 and May 31, 2022.

“Pushbacks themselves violate international law, and many pushback practices are accompanied by serious rights violations,” the report said.

Turkey and human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back irregular migrants, saying it violates humanitarian values ​​and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.

Hundreds of people died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coastguard Command rescued thousands more.

Noting that 98% of pushbacks involved torture and ill-treatment, the report says 88% of the 8,000 asylum seekers who came to the Greek border were beaten.

He added that 97% of them were victims of robbery, 5% sexual assault and 8% electric shock, while 49% were forced to strip and 16% drowned.

Of the children among them, 68% have been exposed to or witnessed violence and abuse, the report points out.

As a result of these land refoulement practices, 53 asylum seekers died last year, 33 of whom froze to death and drowned in the Meriç (Martisa) river, which forms the border between Greece and Turkey.

The report also found that during Greece’s sea push-back practices, asylum seekers were thrown overboard, sometimes with their hands cuffed behind their backs and sometimes without life jackets.

This resulted in the deaths of eight irregular migrants last year, as well as three in 2022 as of May 31.

These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg, as authorities have prevented asylum seekers from claiming their rights, accessing complaints mechanisms and reporting violations, he said.

“It has been demonstrated by concrete evidence that Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) participated in these actions of Greece, supported many actions and tolerated many of them”, a- he added.

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants seeking to enter Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start a new life. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks, summary expulsions and denial of migrants’ access to asylum procedures, which violates international law. Ankara also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this flagrant violation of human rights.

Pushbacks are considered contrary to international agreements on the protection of refugees, which state that people should not be deported or sent back to a country where their life and safety could be at risk because of their race, religion, their nationality or their membership of a social or political group.

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