Amnesty International, which has complained previously about Greece’s treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and detention centers, said the European Union should impose sanctions for what it called “unlawful and shameful” expulsion of refugees and immigrants.
In its latest report on Greece and immigrants, it said there was “unacceptable” treatment of illegal immigrants when they try to enter the country or succeed in making it.
The report, entitled Greece: Stop Unlawful and Shameful Expulsion of Refugees and Migrants, said Greece has continued to push back immigrants who try to enter over the sea or other means.
“The treatment of refugees and migrants at Greece’s borders is deplorable. Too often, instead of finding sanctuary, they are met with violence and intimidation. There are cases where they have been stripped naked, had their possessions stolen, and even held at gunpoint before being pushed back across the border to Turkey,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.
“The people carrying out these push-backs are state agents. As such, the Greek authorities bear full responsibility for their actions. The authorities must openly acknowledge and ensure an end to the illegal and often dangerous practice of push-backs.” he added.
Push-backs are the unlawful expulsion of a group of people without considering the individual circumstances and depriving them of the opportunity to seek asylum on Greek soil. They are strictly prohibited by Greek, European and international law.
Between September 2012 and April 2014, Amnesty International spoke with 148 migrants and refugees who said they suffered traumatic and often violent experiences. Almost half said they had been pushed back from Greece to Turkey, some more than once.
According to Amnesty International, “Current policies in Brussels, the capital of the EU, are heavily tilted towards the deterrence and prevention of irregular migration rather than providing protection to those who need it.
Europe – including Greece – continues to build higher walls, forcing refugees and migrants to follow more dangerous routes, the report said. Greece constructed a wall on the Turkish border, forcing illegal immigrants to try to reach islands, especially Lesbos, by water. In the Aegean Sea, at least 188 people, including children and infants have drowned or gone missing between August 2012 and March 2104.
“Greece is a frontier state of fortress Europe, and while states have the prerogative to control their borders, this must never be at the expense of the lives and safety of those desperately seeking protection or simply a better life,” said Dalhuisen.