Brussels (Brussels Morning) The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, has sent an open letter to Greek authorities, urging them to end pushback operations along Greek sea and land borders with Turkey, and to ensure independent and effective investigations into all allegations concerning pushbacks and ill treatment of migrants.
In her letter, Mijatović notes that illegal pushback activities by Greek security forces have been widely reported and documented for several years, preventing asylum seekers from applying for protection and giving them no route to legal recompense.
Mijatović emphasises that the pushbacks were not only reported and documented by international media and civil society organisations, but also by national human rights structures and international organisations.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) issued a report following visits to Greece in 2018 and 2020, indicating that it had received “consistent and credible allegations” of pushbacks. The Greek Ombudsman, in his April 2021 report, concluded that the “alleged pushbacks investigated, appear to follow a standard practice”.
This “standard practice” involves uniformed men without any identifying markings apprehending migrants, transferring them to unidentified buildings where they are relieved of their personal possessions, then forcing them back across the Turkish border – either forced onto boats and pushed to the Turkish side of the Evros river, or cut adrift in Turkish territorial waters.
Greek authorities have responded by claiming that their border forces adhere to all relevant international and national laws and that all claims to the contrary have been proven to be unsubstantiated. The three ministers directly addressed in Mijatović’s letter jointly penned a response, saying that Greece will continue to work constructively with its European and international partners, and said they stand ready to provide all necessary clarifications.