ATHENS – Refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in Greece took to the streets of the capital to protest against alleged pushbacks keeping others from reaching the country or its islands, although the New Democracy government denied the allegations.
Hundreds of protesters denounced the government’s policy of trying to keep out refugees and migrants, which includes extending a wall along the Evros River border with Turkey, with human rights groups and activists saying that pushbacks have also been done in the Aegean.
Migrants held up banners accusing the government of having “blood on your hands,” according to Agence France-Presse (AFP), and other signs read, “Stop pushbacks, down with the government of murderers.”
This protest occurred during a time when there have been other protests against the government and railway agencies over a head-on collision in Tempe on the line between Athens and Thessaloniki that killed 57 people, many of whom were university students returning to Greece’s second-largest city.
However, the demonstrators in this case were upset about the continuing loss of life of many refugees and migrants who are drowning in the Aegean Sea as they try to reach five islands near Turkey’s coast. Turkey has allowed human traffickers to continue sending them during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union and has not been sanctioned for doing so, while Greece is being criticized.
According to the report, the demonstrators chanted that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has “blood on his hands” and linked the deaths of children at sea to the train crash.
Greece has been collaborating with the EU and border agency Frontex to deport those who do not qualify for asylum, a process that had taken up to two years to complete. The country has deported over 8,000 people over the last two years, working with partners such as the UN Migration Agency IOM, Frontex, and the EU, according to the news agency.
In 2022, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, stated that pushbacks “at land and sea borders have become a de facto general policy” in Greece, but did not elaborate further.
Additionally, the government has signed a cooperation agreement with Frontex to help deport rejected asylum seekers more efficiently, as reported by the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).