The European Parliament’s European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), in a letter signed by its President Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar to the European Commission, expresses its concern about “the continuing reports of dozens of people seeking international protection pushed back from Greece to Turkey through the land border area of the Evros River”. The letter points out that the European Court of Human Rights has issued more than 13 judgments in recent weeks “of interim measures and, hence, instructed the Greek authorities to ensure that the concerned persons have immediate humanitarian and medical assistance and that they will fall under the reception and identification procedures provided by the law”. It stresses the fact that many of these people “were stranded for days, without being rescued by the Greek authorities, in very harsh conditions on small islets in the Evros River and several among them have reported being pushed back to Turkey later on, in contempt of court ruling”. It points to the escalation of the situation with reports of loss of life, inhumane behaviour, denial of access to the asylum procedure and “refoulement at the EU’s external borders with the involvement of the Greek police authorities, in stark contravention of Articles 1, 2, 14, 18 and 19 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 6 of the Asylum Procedures Directive”.
The Committee also adds that, according to the press, the police have given information that NGOs are under investigation for possible involvement in the smuggling of irregular migrants and hopes that this will not turn into the criminalisation of the work of NGOs that provide legal support. Finally, the LIBE Committee underlines that the European Commission has “the duty and responsibility to condemn any use of violence, to enforce the Union acquis, including through infringement proceedings in the context of pending relevant complaints, and to take all the necessary measures to ensure that the Rule of Law is upheld respected by the Member States. Hence, we believe that the Commission is responsible for ensuring that Greece implements ECHR rulings and that national, EU and international law is upheld at the external borders, including by rescuing persons immediately as they enter EU territory and providing them access to the asylum procedures.”
The Greek Council for Refugees and HumanRights360 express their complete satisfaction for this official statement by the LIBE committee, as their joint action has highlighted the violations mentioned herein, and stress that respect for the rule of law by the Member States is one of the foundations of the EU and its defence is an obligation and duty of all of us. As human rights organisations, we are at the disposal of the authorities and institutions to provide any information and assistance.