Authorities in Greece and Bulgaria are guilty of "deplorable treatment" of would-be refugees from Syria including "life threatening push-back operations along the Greek coast, and detention for weeks in poor conditions in Bulgaria," the human rights watchdog Amnesty international said in a report published on Friday.
In the report, entitled "An international failure: the Syrian refugee crisis," AI quotes refugees as accusing Greek police officers and coastguard officers of beating them, stripping them of their belongings and pushing them back to neighboring Turkey.
One 32-year-old Syrian man described how he, and a group of more than 30 refugees including his mother, were confronted by the Greek coastguard near the island of Samos in October. "They put all the men lying on the boat, they stepped on us and hit us with their weapons for three hours," he said. "Then at around 10 in the morning, after removing the motor, they put us back to our plastic boat and drove us back to the Turkish waters and left us in the middle of the sea."
The number of unlawful push-back operations from Greece is not known but AI said it estimated that however "hundreds have been affected."
The watchdog acknowledged that insufficient European Union funding has failed to address the problem, noting that 228 million euros was provided for border controls over the past two years while just 12 million euros was allocated to Greece for supporting refugees.