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UN Human Rights Office Scolds Greece Over Refugee Pushbacks

ATHENS – Adding to other accusations from activists, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances said it was “gravely concerned” about what it said was the criminalization and pushbacks by Greece of refugees trying to reach the country.

That came in findings and recommendations on the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Geneva-based agency said in a release.

It also cited “threats against human rights defenders involved in rescuing victims of enforced disappearance and pushbacks,” and urged the New Democracy government – which denied claims of sending refugees on dinghies toward Turkey and across land borders – to ensure human rights defenders are not prosecuted.

That was in apparent reference to the government going after volunteers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who had been helping refugees and migrants, primarily on five Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast.

The government is prosecuting them for allegedly being human smugglers but for which those accused said is really because they were rescuing people at sea that human rights groups said were pushed back by Greece’s Coast Guard.

The agency, OHCHR, said it reviewed reports about “the high number of migrants who had disappeared in Greek waters of the Mediterranean and the Evros river while attempting to reach Greece,” where scores drowned.

It complained the government wouldn’t provide statistics and said there should be an investigation of the disappearance of migrants arriving by sea or trying to cross the river on the border with Turkey.

It also asked Greece to intensify its efforts to search for, locate, and in the case of death, identify and return the remains of disappeared migrants, including unaccompanied minors.

 

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