The rescue of the 38 Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Evros was finally a relief for everyone who supported their claim for protection from the beginning. It was also a success against the policy of pushbacks, which are systematic and persistent in Greece but also in other EU territories.
The sad evidence of a death of 5-year-old child, that gained the media attention and the body buried on the islet, that none of the countries udertake responsibility, remains. We were pleased to hear the announcement that the International Red Cross will collaborate with the Red Crescent Movement to search and bury the body with respect and dignity.
We await the effective investigation of this specific incident, as well as of the drowning of two other refugees, one month ago, which is alleged to have occurred during the refoulement of this same group of refugees, to the same islet, in the middle of the Evros River, where on August 7th, 2022 were transferred there again by the Turkish authorities.
We also expect the official authorities to comply with the European Court of Human Rights orders and provide humanitarian aid and prohibit refoulement, that the Greek authorities, unfortunately, ignore, either under the pretext that the refugees cannot be spotted, or that the islet are not Greek territory.
The issue of the Ministerial decision that classifies Turkey as a safe country and applies for this group of refugees, remains for their return, while no such return has taken place for at least the last 2.5 years. This, although deportation orders have been issued against them by Turkey, under the threat of which they weree forced to seek dangerous routes to Europe.
We highlight that we will continue to support those seeking protection, especially under conditions of threat to human life. The stoppage of refoulements practice, and the revocation of the decision to classify Turkey as a safe third country remains for us the main objective for refugee protection but also for the rule of law and our democracy.
For this specific incident, the mobilization of our organizations, but also the support of organizations operating in the region, namely the Border Violence Monitoring Network, the journalists who have been actively involved in highlighting the practice of pushbacks, were crucial, as well as the National Commission for Human Rights , which intervened at a critical point to support the specific group of refugees.
Let’s hope that this incident will stand as a case to improve policies towards the purpose of respecting human life, which is often devalued in similar incidents.