Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Greece of contravening their human rights obligations under EU and international law by illegally detaining refugees and migrants and returning them to Turkey.
The human rights group’s new report, “Greece: Violence, lies and pushbacks,” focuses on the Evros region, along the border between Greece and Turkey.
Last year, Greece pushed back migrants after Turkey unilaterally opened its borders. Amnesty said these human rights violations at Greece’s borders have continued and become an entrenched practice.
“It is clear that multiple arms of the Greek authorities are closely coordinating to brutally apprehend and detain people who are seeking safety in Greece, subjecting many to violence, then transferring them to the banks of the Evros river before summarily returning them to Turkey,” said Adriana Tidona, migration researcher for Europe at Amnesty International.
“Our research shows that violent pushbacks have become the de facto Greek border control policy in the Evros region,” she said.
“The level of organization needed to execute these returns, which affected around 1,000 people in the incidents we documented, some numerous times and sometimes via unofficial detention sites, shows just how far Greece is going to illegally return people and cover it up.”
Research interviews carried out by Amnesty showed people claiming to have witnessed violence from uniformed Greek officials, as well as men in civilian clothing. This violence included being hit with sticks or truncheons, kicks and punches, slaps and pushes. Some people were severely injured, according to Amnesty.
The group said in most cases these acts of violence violated the international prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, adding that some incidents also amounted to torture, due to their severity and humiliating or punitive intent.
Greece has not only pushed back people at its borders, but also detained them deep inside the Greek mainland before being returned illegally, Amnesty said.
Turkey and human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.