For years, the Greek authorities have been involved in informal, forcible removals (pushbacks) of migrants and asylum-seekers who enter Greece through its border with Turkey on the Evros river. The scale and violence of these pushbacks has intensified, while European institutions have stood by, pointing the finger at the Greek authorities, despite the remarkable number of eye-witness testimonies noting the presence of non-Greek speaking officers on the scene, and ‘serious incident’ reports by Frontex, the Border and Coast Guard Agency of the EU, indicating that the agency is most probably aware of such allegations.
The Greece-based NGO HumanRights360 and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) are working to investigate and expose these abusive practices, seek accountability for European actors that may be involved in such actions, and support victims in obtaining remedies.
Through its extensive border monitoring work in the Evros region, HumanRights360 has documented scores of eye-witness testimonies that highlight inhuman and degrading detention conditions, denial of due process, cases of refoulement of refugees, violence and other abuses during such removals, as well as exposure to chain refoulement by Turkey.
The Greek government has thus far denied that such violations are taking place and ignored calls to investigate, review procedures and safeguard against future violations. The alleged involvement of “masked Greek police and border guards or (para-)military commandos” in violent pushbacks at Evros was addressed to the Greek government by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights. In response to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Greek authorities stated “that the behaviours and practices denounced do not exist at all as operational activity and practice of the personnel of Border Guarding Agencies…”.
Despite such denials and what appears to be an EU and Greek strategy to avoid responsibility, HumanRights360 and GLAN are determined to investigate, report and develop strategies to address relevant practices and violations of the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers. This partnership with HumanRights360 is part of GLAN’s strategic approach on migration and border violence which challenges the fast-changing policies that result in various forms of violence being inflicted on migrant populations. We use a variety of innovative legal methods, ranging from human rights and refugee law to international criminal law in order to challenge the perpetrators of these violations.