Push backs at Evros borders: a disregard for human life and legality
Athens, May 2, 2019
The borders of Greece at Evros tend to become an area outside the law, a place of suffering for refugees who desperately try to reach Europe. This is a situation that stigmatize our country and those actors who are responsible for the border management.
While watching the increasing death toll at the borders, refugee allegations for barbaric practices of push backs continue and are a source of disgust. Through these allegations, we realize that violence and systematic violations cannot be considered as personal choices of the perpetrators but indeed they are generalized practices developed within a deterrence plan in an effort to reinforce the message of discouragement for future refugee flows in the area.
These allegations extensively recorded in the joint report of the Greek Council for Refugees, ARSIS and Human Rights 360, recently published1, do not allow for a reasonable doubt. The systematic way and the similarities of mistreatment refer to an organized plan, the implementation of which allows - if not encouraging - the development of unlawful behaviours. The patrols of armed men, - with or without police and military uniforms, masks or hoods -, speaking not only Greek but also another European language (often mentioned as the German one), who act with demonstrative cruelty, even in front of young children and families, the violence and abuse, the removal of personal belongings and money (clothes on a case-by-case basis and often shoes), the removal or destruction of mobile phones (apparently in order to prevent possible registering of illicit activities), the transfer to abandoned warehouses used as informal detention places, without food or water and finally the use of inflatable boats for the push backs to Turkey, reflect specific orders or other instructions pursuant an objective that ultimately has already been decided. This objective is designed in a way to conceal and to legalize all illicit activities linked to the push backs practices.
The Campaign for the Access to Asylum once again condemns the push backs practices which have been expanded and become more cruel and more systematic after the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March 2016. The Campaign highlights that not only they constitute a serious violation of the country's international obligations but they are also elements of criminal acts (torture, robbery, exposure to life risk, etc.) which fall under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice.
Therefore, we would like to address the following questions to the authorities and ask for relevant answers:
- Which forces act at the borders to deter irregular entrances?
- Do they exist any specific orders or SOPs (standard operational procedures) for the identification, arrest and processing of irregular arrivals in the Northern borders of Greece? Who is ensuring how these orders/ procedures, if any, are implemented by the patrols?
- Is there an obligation to keep a track of the activities of the patrols operating along Evros borders?
- Does the competent authority supervise the legality of the actions of these patrols and the fulfilment of the country’s legal obligations according to the international refugee law for people in need of international protection?
The Campaign for the Access to Asylum points out that the authorities concerned (Ministry of Protection of the Citizen, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Migration Policy) as well as the Ministry of Justice need to undertake urgent procedures to investigate these allegations of illicit push backs in the region. The competent authorities are responsible for any delay, as far as the continuing violations, the more they are beyond any control, accountability or punishment, the worse the situation gets. The lack of action for the investigation of the allegations simply confirms the widespread belief that Evros border is an area outside the law, where refugees are being thrown into death or into the hands of criminal networks for which the human life is extremely cheap. It goes the same for those who are responsible to protect it.
Signing Organizations (in alphabetic order)
ARSIS - Association for the Social Support of Youth arsis.gr | arsis
Greek Forum of Refugees http://refugees.gr
Greek Helsinki Monitor https://greekhelsinki.wordpress.com
Initiative for the Detainees’ Rights http://www.tokeli.gr
“LATHRA?” Committee for Solidarity to Refugees in Chios http://www.lathra.gr
Movement for Human Rights - Solidarity with Refugees Samos
Network of Social Support for Refugees and Migrants
Refugees Support Aegean http://rsaegean.org
World without Wars and Violence http://www.kosmosxorispolemous.gr