The International Organization for Migration (IOM) joined a number of activists, human rights groups and non-government organizations worried about repeated reports that Greece is pushing back refugees and migrants.
The Geneva, Switzerland-based agency is tied to the United Nations and has a presence in more than 100 countries, providing assistance to migrants and said it was alarmed too about mounting migrant deaths in Greece.
At least 21 have died on the land border with Turkey, which has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, including to Greek islands.
An estimated 55 lives were lost in 2021 along the same border, mostly during August and the winter months, according to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, which noted persistent reports of pushbacks, denied by the Greek government as being fictitious, despite widespread evidence and videos.
IOM teams in both Greece and Turkey said they had collected testimony from victims of pushbacks and violence against them and the agency said it was “worried by the continuing maltreatment of migrants.”
It added: “The instrumentalization of migrants is unacceptable and saving lives should remain the number one priority,” the call coming after another report that two migrants drowned when tossed into the Aegean Sea by Greek border guards, which the government denied happened.
In 2021, nearly 3,500 people died attempting to enter the EU through maritime and land borders, making it the deadliest year for migrants in the region since 2018, the IOM said.