Amnesty International on Tuesday urged the European Union to sanction Greece over the country’s failure to eradicate the practice of pushing back refugees and migrants at its borders.
In a new report, “Greece: Frontier of Hope and Fear,” published on Tuesday, the international human rights organization slammed Greece for pushing back people who were seeking asylum, noting that this was in violation of the country’s international human rights obligations.
“The treatment of refugees and migrants at Greece’s borders is deplorable. Too often, instead of finding sanctuary, they are met with violence and intimidation. There are cases where they have been stripped naked, had their possessions stolen, and even held at gunpoint before being pushed back across the border to Turkey,” said John Dalhuisen, the human rights watchdog’s Europe and Central Asia program director. “The people carrying out these push-backs are state agents. As such, the Greek authorities bear full responsibility for their actions. The authorities must openly acknowledge and ensure an end to the illegal and often dangerous practice of push-backs.”
The report included interviews conducted between September 2012 and April 2014 with 148 migrants and refugees, with just under half of them claiming they had been pushed-back from Greece to Turkey, sometimes on more than one occasion.
According to the report, push-back practices occurred regularly along the land broder in the Evros region, in northeastern Greece as well as the Aegean Sea islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos.
A group of 11 Afghans and Syrians, eight of whom were children, died when a boat carrying 27 migrants sank near the island of Farmakonisi in January.