Report Says Italy Shipping Back Locked-Up Refugees to Greece

ATHENS – While Greece continues to deny pushing back refugees and migrants to Turkey, international investigative media reports said that Italy is doing the same, locking up asylum seekers in ships and sending them to Greece.

They were forced to leave Italy and locked up in unofficial prisons at sea, an Al Jazeera investigation with Lighthouse Reports and other media partners said it had found, without saying whether Greece accepted them.

The joint investigation published this week uncovered evidence of an illicit practice known as “pushbacks” against adult refugees and migrants as well as children who were made to suffer inhumane conditions as they were transported from Italy to Greece, said Al Jazeera.

The report said they were from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq and described being detained on board commercial ferries operating routes between Italy and Greece over the past year.

They said they were held in dark metal boxes and small rooms without food or water, sometimes for more than a day, as they were shipped back to Greece after being caught trying to reach Italy’s Adriatic ports of Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi, the news site site.

Others who were returned to Greece were handcuffed to metal pipes during the journey, the report said, including children and that official Greek data showed that more than 230 people were returned from Italy in the previous two years, but that the number may be far higher.

The investigation was based on several reporting trips between Italy and Greece on board commercial ships and that on one of them that asylum seekers were locked up in a former toilet.

Crew members on board various vessels confirmed the practice of detaining asylum seekers and returning them to Greece and said the ships had been turned into prisons but it wasn’t said if they were Greek-owned.

Under the terms of an agreement struck between Italy and Greece in 1999, Italy is able to return migrants and refugees who arrive in the country without documentation but not asylum seekers.

In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that pushbacks were unlawful after Italy was found to have returned asylum seekers to Greece, a move denying them the opportunity to lodge a claim for protection.



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