Investigate alleged pushbacks of asylum-seekers at the Greek-Turkish border, MEPs demand

refugees greece

Ashley Gilbertson / VII Photo for UNICEF
Refugees, primarily from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are helped by volunteers as they disembark boats near Scala, on the island of Lesvos, Greece.

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

Greek and EU authorities must investigate recurrent reports of violent pushbacks at the border with Turkey, which if true would mean Greece is not ensuring the right to asylum.

On Monday, MEPs in the Civil Liberties Committee asked the Greek Government to clarify their position regarding several media and civil society reports which indicate that the country’s police and border guards systematically prevent migrants from entering Greece, using violence and even shooting at them, both at the land and sea borders.

Greek Ministers for Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrisochoidis, and for Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, dismissed the accusations, describing them as “fake news”, and underlined the key role that Greece plays in “keeping EU borders safe, always respecting fundamental rights”. They also warned that a repetition of the events that took place in March, when President Erdoğan announced that he was opening the Turkish borders, cannot be ruled out.

A majority of MEPs called on the European Commission to make sure the Greek authorities comply with EU legislation on asylum, urging it to condemn the use of violence and impose sanctions if the breaches are confirmed. Commissioner Ylva Johansson agreed that allegations of violence against asylum-seekers must be investigated, not only in Greece, but all across the EU. “We cannot protect our borders by violating people’s rights”, she said.

Some MEPs commended Greece for guarding the EU’s borders from Turkey. Commissioner Johansson also pointed to the progress made in the last few months and stressed that, despite a very challenging situation, the Greek authorities have avoided the spread of COVID-19 within the refugee camps.

You can watch a recording of the debate.

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