Greek border and coast guards tortured and denied due process to thousands of migrants, including women and children. Despite calls from international human rights organizations to launch an immediate investigation into the arbitrariness of the state border protection authorities, the Greek authorities continue to mock refugees, ignoring international norms and agreements.
Since 2008, Greece has expelled tens of thousands of migrants who tried to enter the country from Turkey and Syria. The methods used by the Greek border service officers became the reason for a lawsuit filed against the authorities of the Hellenic Republic in 2021: refugees were forcibly returned to their native country, migrants who entered Greek territorial waters were sent to remote islands or thrown overboard on rafts, without any means of transportation. These and many other violations can be classified as a serious violation of human rights and fundamental principles of international law to prevent the forced return of persons in need of protection.
According to international norms, expulsion is the informal collective return of people who enter a country without legal grounds, back to the country from which they came, through procedures that occur outside the rules established by law in protocols or agreements signed by neighboring countries. On the anniversary of World Refugee Day in 2021, the Finnish-Greek human rights organization Greek Helsinki Monitor published a report on 147 incidents during which Greek border guards illegally expelled at least 7 thousand migrants and asylum seekers, including women and infants. The report cites the testimony of refugees from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and various African countries who have faced the arbitrariness of the Greek authorities. The document also details cases when the Greek Coast Guard blocked vessels heading to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea and towed them back to Turkish waters. Hundreds of men, women and children detained by Greek border guards without any legal justification complained that they were literally thrown into the open sea on inflatable life rafts without humanitarian aid and life jackets.
According to Greek law, the detention of third-country nationals for the purpose of returning them to their homeland is applied without any restrictions on freedom or violations of rights. In practice, the Greek authorities systematically violated the basic rights of migrants and the Charter of the European Union on Human Rights. Various groups of migrants who arrived on the Greek islands or on the mainland were seized by the military or police, who confiscated their property, including mobile phones, passports or other identity documents, large sums of money and even prescribed medicines. Greek law enforcement officers insulted the refugees, did not give them food or water, and also denied access to the toilet. There are also reports that Greek police beat migrants and held them in custody for several days before expelling them from the country.
The problem of violation of migrants’ rights by Greek law enforcement agencies has been relevant for several years. Back in 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants, after his mission to Greece, noted an increase in attacks on refugees motivated by racism and xenophobia. The representative of an international intergovernmental organization linked the aggravation of the problem of violation of the rights of asylum seekers with the economic crisis that has been observed in the Republic over the past few years.
Despite the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur to the Greek Government and the institutions of the European Union to develop long-term solutions in the field of human rights for migrants and asylum seekers in Greece, including on the important issue of border control in accordance with international human rights law, today the situation continues to deteriorate. Recently, dozens of refugees who were fleeing poverty and violence in their countries shared photos on social networks that clearly show traces of cruel and inhuman torture by Greek border guards.
According to the persons who asked for Greek asylum, they tried to get to Europe, but faced ill-treatment from the Greek state border protection authorities. According to them, the authorities stripped them and stole their property, after which they were beaten and sent in cold weather to a neutral territory that does not belong to any state, between the Turkish city of Edirne and the Greek city of Castanes. It is reported that among the 30 refugees who were beaten by Greek border guards, there were children.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice condemn the illegal actions of the Greek authorities, which violate international agreements and legal acts, including the Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1933. The Foundation to Battle Injustice demands from international human rights organizations and supervisory authorities to strengthen control over the activities of the Greek State Border Guard Service, which threatens the safety and well-being of people fleeing violence and poverty, as well as to investigate all known cases of abuse of their powers by Greek border guards.