Syrian refugees fleeing their country’s Civil War and hoping to find safe ground in Greece instead of sometimes being beaten, robbed or pushed back on boats to Turkey, Amnesty International has charged.
The human rights group said Greece – along with Bulgaria – showed “deplorable treatment” of the refugees, holding them in detention in poor conditions for weeks in Bulgaria.
In a report, An International Failure: the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the agency said it based it on reports from refugees who told of mistreatment.
One 32-year-old Syrian man said he and a group of more than 30 refugees including his mother, were confronted by the Greek coastguard near the island of Samos in October.
“They put all the men lying on the boat, they stepped on us and hit us with their weapons for three hours,” he said. “Then at around 10 in the morning, after removing the motor, they put us back to our plastic boat and drove us back to the Turkish waters and left us in the middle of the sea.”
The number of unlawful push-back operations from Greece is not known but AI said it estimated that however “hundreds have been affected.”
Greece has complained it can’t handle an inundation of refugees from Syria along with those from Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe who want to find asylum or use the country to get to other European Union countries that have a better record of treatment.
Amnesty agreed in part, saying that the EU has not done enough to help beyond patrols by the agency FRONTEX that is designed to intercept would-be immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The EU has designated 228 million euros for border controls the last two years but only 12 million euros to help Greece deal with the numbers of refugees and illegal immigrants.
Last year, Greece said it had plans to house 20,000 of the Syrians on islands but no more came of it.