PRO ASYL stresses the wider European complicity

The major finding of the PRO ASYL investigation is that illegal push-backs from Greek sea and land borders occur systematically. Push-backs take place from Greek territorial waters, the Greek islands and from the land border. The majority of the victims are refugees from Syria – men, women, children, babies, and people suffering from severe illness – trying to enter Europe to seek international protection or to reunite with their families who live in Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and various other European countries. While the EU publicly repeats its commitment to stand by Syrian refugees, their fundamental human rights are being violated at the European border. According to the interviewees’ eyewitness accounts, it can be estimated that over 2,000 persons were pushed back, given the make-up of the groups they travelled with.

The PRO ASYL report accuses the Greek government, the border police and the coastguard of these practices, and raises the question of wider European complicity. The entire Greek asylum und migration system relies on considerable support and funding from the EU for its operation, and Frontex has been deployed in the country for years, yet the responsible decision makers in Berlin, Vienna and the rest of Europe remain silent on the issue of human rights violations that these bodies are implicated in.

Death in the Aegean Sea- consequence of the closure of the land border

The shift in escape routes from Evros region to the Aegean Sea, in response to the closure of the land border in summer 2012, has led to the deaths of many people. 149 persons, mostly Syrian and Afghan refugees, and among them children and pregnant women, have lost their lives in this stretch of water since August 2012.

The brutality and the extent of violations found in this report are shocking

Masked Special Forces officers are accused of ill-treating refugees upon apprehension, detaining them arbitrarily without any registration on Greek soil and then deporting them back to Turkey, in breach of international law. Special units of the Greek coastguard abandon refugees in Turkish territorial waters without consideration for their safety. The majority of the interviewees claimed that they had been ill-treated. In the cases of those who were pushed back from the island of Farmakonisi, the severity of the reported ill-treatment towards nine male Syrian refugees could amount to torture.

Frontex must terminate its operations in Greece

The findings of this report furthermore call the engagement of the European Union and especially the Frontex Operation “Poseidon Land and Sea” into question. Aside from few exceptions, all the push-backs documented in this report have taken place within the operational area of Frontex. PRO ASYL therefore poses the question of Frontex’s involvement in human rights abuses. Given the frequency and severity of human rights violations taking place in Greece, Frontex must terminate its operations in the country. This is foreseen in the new 2011 Frontex Regulation. Additionally, all EU financing of refugee deterrence in Greece must be fully investigated and evaluated.

The next Presidency

On the 1st of January 2014, Greece will assume the EU Presidency. PRO ASYL calls on the Greek authorities to match their justified calls for greater solidarity from the EU in the reception of refugees, with a commitment to respect refugee and human rights. The illegal practices of pushing-back and mistreating must stop immediately.

PRO ASYL calls on all EU Member States to ease visa requirements, broaden the grounds for family reunification and issue humanitarian visas for refugees – especially for those fleeing Syria – in transit through Turkey. This would create safe and legal access to EU territory.

Refugees and asylum seekers who are trapped in Greece, need the right to legally travel on to the European states where their families live, and where they will have a chance of receiving protection. 

This report documents the results of different research missions carried out by the PRO ASYL Foundation and the Friends of PRO ASYL in Greece, Turkey and Germany. PRO ASYL is solely responsible for the content of the report “Pushed Back“.

 EU-Parliament debate about the refugee tragedy of Farmakonisi – European Responsibility (06.02.14)

 12 refugees die during alleged push-back operation off Greek island (22.01.14)

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