While most refugees and migrants trying to get into Greece use the sea to reach islands, those trying to sneak in through the northern borders are being pushed back into Turkey, the Greek Council for Refugees said.
A 14-page report detailed allegations from refugees about “systematic pushbacks” in the Evros region bordering Turkey and described beatings and inhuman treatment used against families including pregnant women and children at the hands of police.
Last week, a 37-year-old woman and her two sons, aged 3 and 11, drowned while trying to cross the Evros River in northwestern Greece.
There was no immediate response from the police nor the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition or Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, who has been accused by critics including human rights groups of doing too little to protect refugees and migrants and improve conditions at camps and detention centers on Greek islands where they were sent by human traffickers.
The Council for Refugees said there has been a rise in the number of pushbacks, a method that the Coast Guard had been accused in the past of doing at sea in forcing back boats and dinghies packed with refugees and migrants to keep them from getting to islands where there are now some 15,000, most seeking asylum after the European Union closed its borders to them.
Migrant crossings into Greece are down 80 percent from last year during a suspended EU swap deal with Turkey, but “pressure remains at a high level,” the head of European Union border agency Frontex warned on Feb. 20.
“The irregular migration pressure on the southern borders in the Mediterranean will remain at a very high level” this year, Fabrice Leggeri said as the problem as been dumped largely on Greece during a crushing economic crisis.
Leggeri said Turkey is trying to stop people leaving for Greece, but criminal gangs are pressuring “because this is some kind of pull factor for irregular migrants if they know that criminal networks can help them,” said Kathimerini.