13/02/2023 – 07/03/2023
- Illegal pushbacks continue off the coast of Greece. On February 22, Aegean Boat Rescue reported the rescue of 45 people in distress off the coast of Lesvos, who were then pushed back once disembarked. The same day, the NGO also reported a shipwreck that killed 3 people who were trying to reach Greece from Türkiye. On March 1, two migrants were found dead off the coast of the Greek island of Kos after the boat they were traveling in sank. Twenty-four people were rescued and one is still missing.
- On February 23, the Samos-based organisation I Have Rights published a report on the restrictions placed on the liberty of people on the move in the Samos Closed Controlled Access Centre (CCAC). By comparing the restrictions of liberty in the CCAC with Greek and European legal standards, the report concludes that such restrictions are unlawful as they are the default option. The issue is at the core of current infringement letters against Greece, released this January by the European Commission, who has determined that this practice is in violation of EU law.
- According to confidential documents reviewed by The New York Times, Frontex blatantly ignored the calls made by its Human Rights Chief to stop operations in Greece due to serial abuses by Greek border guards, including violent pushbacks of asylum seekers to Türkiye and the separation of migrant children from their parents. The files allegedly show that the role and opinion of the agency’s rights officer remains marginal and often unheard. Frontex responded to the Times by pointing out that the officer’s recommendations are non-binding, while Greece’s Migration Ministry rejected the report published by the New York Times.
- A new report by the Greek Refugee Council sheds light on the violence against refugees at the Greek-Turkish borders and on the criminalisation of legal aid organisations.
26/01/2023 – 13/02/2023
- In January 2023, Aegean Boat Report registered 66 illegal pushbacks in the Aegean Sea performed by the Greek coastguard. On February 6, five people (a woman and four children) died when their boat went down nearby the island of Leros, while three additional persons were reported to be missing. The other 41 people were rescued.
- The European Commission has issued two letters of notice to Greece for failing to comply with EU law concerning the reception and detention of asylum seekers and refugees and the qualification for international protection. According to Greek media, one letter concerns discriminatory criteria excluding recognised refugees from most social benefits in Greece, while the other relates to the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers during screening procedures, treated in law as “restriction on freedom” inside Reception and Identification Centres. Oxfam EU migration expert, Stephanie Pope stated that “it’s a welcome step to see that the Commission is finally upholding its role as Guardian of the Treaties by taking action to hold Greece accountable for its human rights violations against refugees and asylum seekers.“
- A joint submission to the European Commission on the 2023 Rule of Law Report from civil society organisations, also signed by EuroMed Rights’ member Greek Council for Refugees, revealed cases of continued “backsliding” of the rule of law in the country. Among the striking cases of rule of law violations in Greece during 2022, the submissions highlights unlawful push backs of refugees and migrants, non-compliance with interim measures indicated by the European Court of Human Rights, targeting of NGOs and human rights defenders, ineffectiveness of judicial review of immigration detention and concerns on the functioning of monitoring bodies.
- A report published in January by the Protecting Rights at Borders initiative reiterates some of the mounting evidence of violations in Greece.
- The Alternative Intervention of Athens Lawyers (EPDA) group released a bold statement criticising Greek Interior Minister Notis Mitarakis in relation to a case against the government involving 38 people being pushed back. The migrants were trapped on an islet in the Evros region for weeks in the summer of 2022. During the ordeal, when neither Greece nor Turkey came to the group’s rescue, a five-year-old girl is reported to have died. EPDA’s statement also asserts that Greek authorities use people on the move to carry out tasks relating to pushbacks in exchange for papers and that illegal refoulement takes place with the knowledge and participation of the authorities. The group also calls for an end to the harassment of lawyers and human rights defenders and for the end of the criminalisation of refugees.
15/12/2022 – 26/01/2023
- The Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR)as the National Human Rights Institution in Greece (NHRI) and the independent advisory body to the Greek State for the protection and promotion of human rights, presented the Recording Mechanism of Incidents of Informal Forced Returns. The Recording Mechanism is a civil society body that was born out of the lack of an official and independent body for the collection of data on forced returns. So far it has collected testimonies of 50 incidents between April 2020 and October 2022.
- Lighthouse Reports released an investigation showing asylum seekers are held in secret prisons on commercial ships during illegal pushbacks from Italy to Greece. Below deck of commercials ships of the Greek company Attica Group asylum seekers – including children – are chained and locked up while being illegally returned to Greece. As reported in the investigation, these pushbacks take place under the framework bilateral “readmissions” agreement between Italy and Greece, in place since 1999. However, the agreement should not be applied to people seeking international protection, even though those who have been pushed back were from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
- A group of approximately 48 people has been stranded on an islet in the Evros river for days. They had previously been in the same location for some weeks in December, then they were picked up but the Greek border guards, detained for two days, and pushed back to Turkey. Then Turkey forced them back to Greece and now they are stuck in the same islet. The European Court of Human Rights has issued Rule 39 ruling, ordering the Greek government not to push back the people and to guarantee adequate assistance and protection. However, no on intervened so far.
- In the whole of 2022, Greece registered a total of 12,756 arrivals by sea and 6,022 arrivals by land. According to the data reported by the Greek government, the main countries of origin were Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria.
- In the end of December 2022, 24 aid workers were trialled in Lesbos on charges of smuggling and espionage. On 13 January 2023, the Court decided to drop the charges of espionage but the procedure on smuggling is still under investigation.
- Are You Syrious? published a reportage written by one of the residents of the Samos Closed Controlled Access Centre, detailing the living conditions inside what was initially presented as a modern and better facility. The resident reports testimonies of police beating asylum seekers inside the quarantine section of the camp, insufficient food supply as well as unhealthy and overcrowded conditions.
25/11/2022 – 13/12/2022
- About 40 people have been stranded on an islet in the Evros region for 13 days. Among them are 10 children and 16 women, one of whom is pregnant. Two people went missing during a pushbacks, while the pregnant woman and her kids were evacuated by people in civilian clothing.
- On 25 November 2022, one injured person stranded at the Evros regions was pushed back by Greek authorities without receiving any medical assistance. The following day, Alarm Phone reported about another person stranded at the Greek-Turkish land border. We do not know what his fate was.
05/10/2022 – 02/11/2022
- In the night between 31 October and 1 November 2022, a boat with 68 people on board capsized in the Aegean. Greek authorities found and rescued 9 people, but many remain missing.
- Systematic pushbacks by Greek authorities continue:
- One injured person was pushed back from Greece to Turkey while in urgent need of help in the Evros region. The European Court of Human Rights had granted interim measures and ordered Greece not to remove the person from its territory and provide the adequate assistance. Despite that however, Greek authorities proceeded with the pushback.
- 65 people were pushed back from Crete on 25 October 2022.
- 29 people pushed back from the island of Euboea on 26 October 2022.
- Alarm Phone reported about 300 people in distress off the island of Crete. The civil society hotline informed all relevant authorities, but no one intervened, and the people are still in distress at sea at the time of writing.
- MSF found refugees handcuffed on the Greek island of Lesvos after they had been beaten by a group of 7-8 men.
- 92 migrants were found naked at the Greek-Turkish land border, some with injuries. Greece and Turkey are accusing each other of the mistreatment of this group of asylum-seekers mostly from Syria and Afghanistan.
- In the beginning of October 2022, two shipwrecks in the Aegean led to the death of at least 21 people while dozens remain missing.
21/09/2022 – 05/10/2022
- On 1 October 2022, Alarm Phone reported about a boat in distress in the Ionian Sea carrying 40-50 people. They were rescued by a cargo vessel and disembarked in Igoumenitsa, Greece.
- On 25 September 2022, Alarm Phone reported about a shipwreck were six people drowned – including 4 children – after being pushed back from Lesbos.
- On 22 September 2022, Alarm Phone reported about a boat which departed from Lebanon and was in distress in the Ionian Sea, without food nor water. Finally, they were rescued by Greek authorities and disembarked in Kalamata.
- A man faces 100 years in prison with smuggling charges, because he drove a car with refugees in Greece.
- 35 people were pushed back from the island of Rhodes in a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) belonging to the Greek Coast Guard.
- 6 people were reported missing and are feared dead according to survivors’ testimonies. The boat had departed from Turkey and reached the island of Leros. A total of 55 people were on board but only 49 made it to the island.
- The Greek Migration Ministry announced it would use EU-funded drones with employing Artificial Intelligence to track people at the borders. The project is funded with 3.7 million EUR. The drones are developed by the institute Information Technologies Institute at the Center for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH), which previously got funding from the Commission of the so-called ROBORDER project (a pilot project that aimed to develop robots which will be able to identify humans at the borders and independently decide if they represent a threat) and now will receive funds from the Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs Fund for the project REACTION, or “Real-Time Artificial Intelligence for Border Surveillance” which is set to start in November 2022, and run for 36 months.
03/08/2022 – 21/09/2022
- Thirty people were pushed back from the island of Symi to Turkey.
- Six people drowned, including five children, while five remain missing after a pushback in the Aegean. On 13 September 2022, the Turkish Coast Guard said they rescued 73 people in the Aegean, but six had died and five went missing. According to Turkey, the migrants had left Lebanon on 10 September 2022, and were going to Italy. Survivors said they called the Greek authorities to receive assistance and were taken aboard a Greek coast guard vessel. There, they were stripped of their valuables and were then moved onto four life rafts and left to float adrift. Greece denies any involvement in this pushback.
- On 11 September 2022, Alarm Phone reported about a group of 80 asylum seekers imprisoned in the Isaakio border guard station in the Evros region. Later, they were pushed back to Turkey.
- In the beginning of September 2022, Alarm Phone communicated about a distress case of 60 people who had been at sea for 10 days. They departed from Lebanon and were adrift between the Maltese and Greek SAR zones. A merchant vessel nearby the boat was ordered by Maltese authorities to leave the ship to its course without providing assistance. The people on board had no more food nor water. Meanwhile, various merchant vessels passed by without assisting. Loujin, a 4-year-old girl died on board. Finally, the people were rescued by the merchant vessel BBC Pearl and disembarked in Crete. Loujin was buried in the cemetery in Crete on the 16 September 2022.
- The Aegean Boat Report published a report showing how during the months of August, 100 people every single day have been found drifting in the middle of the sea, clinging to life rafts and rubber boats after being pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard. This number represents an unprecedented number of pushbacks carried out by Greek authorities. Pushbacks carried out by the Greek Coast Guard are extremely violent and people are often beaten, assaulted and stripped of their belonging. They are also completely illegal, but despite the numerous evidence no infringement procedure has been opened against Greece at the European level. The report also states that due to these systematic and violent pushbacks, only 10% of all people trying to cross by boat towards the Greek islands actually succeeds and ends up in a Greek refugee camp.
- The Greek government stated that until now, since the beginning of 2022, Greece has blocked 150,000 migrants on its land or maritime borders, 25,000 in August alone. It also announced its plans to extend by 80 km the wall along the Greek-Turkish border at Evros, install thermal cameras and deploy an additional 250 border guards.
- Alaa Hamoudi, a 22-years-old Syrian refugee sued EU border agency Frontex after he and 21 other people were pushed back by Greek authorities, who put them on an inflatable boat after they had already disembarked in the island of Samos. They were finally intercepted by Turkish authorities. He believes that the EU agency Frontex was involved in this push back operation, as an aircraft was flying over their boat while the incident took place.
- Jonas Grimheden, one of Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer stated in an interview that Greece is one of the countries that needs most urgent monitoring when it comes to respect the human rights of migrants.
- On 18 August 2022, clashes were registered at the refugee camp of Eleonas in Athens after the riot police started evacuating it, using tear gas and flash grenades.
- In the beginning of August 2022, Alarm Phone reported about a case in which approximately 40 people, including 9 children, needed urgent assistance in Evros, at the land border between Greece and Turkey. The people had been exposed to violence for two weeks by both Greek and Turkish authorities and three people died.
- Between 9-10 August 2022, 50 people are believed to have drowned in the Aegean after their boats capsized. 30 people were rescued.
- In the beginning of August, Greek authorities arrested 5 people who disembarked on the Greek island of Karpathos and charged them for smuggling approximately 100 people, in the relatively new sea route from Lebanon to Italy. Previously, in June 2022, six people were arrested with the same charges after arriving in Karpathos on a boat carrying 166 people who had left from Lebanon to reach Italy.
- Since 28 July 2022, at least 45 people have been in distress at sea off the island of Crete, then entering the Maltese SAR zone. Both Greece and Malta have not yet rescued them.
- On 26 July 2022, Alarm Phone reported about 82 people in distress close to the island of Crete. They informed the authorities who performed a rescued operation after previously denying their responsibility on the rescue. The people are safe, but it is unclear where they have been brought.
- On 26 July 2022, Alarm Phone reported about 27 people in distress close to the island of Rhodes. The boat was attacked, and its engine was removed. It seems that the people were a victim of pushbacks, as Turkish authorities reported the same day that they picked up three boats close to Rhodes: one with 29, one with 21 and one with 27 people on board.
- 50 people remained trapped on an islet in the Evros river for ten days with 3 suspected deaths.
- One person died at the Greek-Turkish land border, according to two of his friends who survived the crossing, who are now in Fylakio camp.
- Forensic Architecture published a new investigation that produced an interactive cartographic platform that shows detailed evidence of over 1,000 pushbacks involving 27,464 people between March 2020 and March 2022. These pushbacks, or drift-backs, as Forensic Architecture defined them, represent cases of people who were intercepted in Greek waters and islands by the Greek coast Guard and were left adrift on life rafts, until they arrive in Turkish waters and are intercepted by Turkey. These cases also show NATO and Frontex complicity in these pushbacks.
- Lighthouse Reports showed how Greek police is using foreigners as “slaves” to pushback migrants. According to the investigation, some of these people were migrants themselves or were lured into Greece by smugglers working with a gangmaster who is hosted in a container located in the carpark of a Greek police station. These people told who they are kept detained in between operations by the Greek police in three police stations in the Evros region, and in return of their work during pushback operations, they get a permit to stay for 25 days and are paid approximately 5,000 EUR. As reported “The slaves said they worked alongside regular police units to strip, rob and assault refugees and migrants who crossed the Evros river into Greece — they then acted as boatmen to ferry them back to the Turkish side of the river against their will”. Le Monde published a video of this joint investigation, available here.
- Alarm Phone reported about a distress case of 6 people stuck on an islet in the Evros river. They demanded immediate evacuation and they also reported having the body of a dead person. Their fate remains unknown.
- Uda Hussein Anda, a 35-year-old Somali woman, died in the mountains of Chios from thirst and hunger to avoid deportation to Turkey. Her brother, who is in Chios, helped in the identification of the victim. Two girls remain missing in the same area.
- On 27 June 2022, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi was present at the EU Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) to face question on Greek migration policies and the reports of pushbacks, also highlighted in the letter sent by the LIBE Committee to the EU Commission. Mitarachi however only blamed Turkey for instrumentalizing migration, and for the lack of a consistent EU plan for solidarity and relocation. He also said that Greece is planning to expand its wall on the border with Turkey by 80 km, and that the EU Commission will pay for it, despite the fact that the Commission has often repeated it does not want to use EU funds to build walls.
- Border Violence Monitoring Network published a report on the recent use of interim measures (Rule 39) on cases of asylum seekers stuck on islets in the Evros river. The report is available here.
07/06/2022 – 27/06/2022
- On 27 June 2022, Greek Interior Minister Notis Mitarachi will attend the meeting of the LIBE Committee in response to the letter signed by the chair of the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, to denounce pushbacks at Greek borders.
- On 26 June 2022, Alarm Phone reported about 90 people in distress in the Aegean. The people on board reported that a Greek vessel has approached them, but they fear they will be pushed back.
- 20 people, who had been stranded in the Greek island of Ikaria for five days with no food nor water were pushed back by Greece and intercepted by Turkish authorities.
- On 23 June 2022, about 100 people were pushed back to Turkey by Greek authorities.
- On 22 June 2022, a shipwreck took place in the Aegean: the boat was carrying 80 people, and 8 went missing. The survivors are now detained in the Amygdaleza prison near Athens and six of them are accused of driving the boat.
- On 21 June 2022, Alarm Phone reported of 13 people in need of urgent assistance on the island of Lesbos. Five of them managed to arrive in a camp, but the fate of the other 8 is unknown, possibly they were pushed back.
- One person swam alone to the island of Kos, and when arrived to the port he was injured and needed assistance. However, no one arrived and he walked alone for 24 hours with an injured leg to reach the camp.
- K.K. – a young refugee woman who attempted suicide last year in the Kara Tepe camp by setting herself on fire – is now facing trial for her suicide attempt. She is accused of “arson with intent”, “endangering the life and objects of others” and “damage of an object of common utility by means of fire”.
- On 14 June 2022, Alarm Phone reported about a group of 36 people, including 12 children, in distress in Greek waters. A vessel from the Hellenic Coast Guard was in proximity but did not intervene, until the people were intercepted by the Turkish Coast Guard and brought back to Turkey.
- A group of MEPs denounced the use of violence and the systematic practice of pushbacks at the Greek borders. In a letter addressed to the EU Commission, the chair of the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, denounced the “consistent reports referring to dozens of persons seeking international protection pushed back from Greece to Turkey through the land border area of the Evros River”. He also criticized the ongoing criminalization of local NGOs providing assistance to migrants, that are constantly accused of smuggling. The letter comes after the European Court of Human Rights issued more than 13 judgments in recent weeks of interim measures demanding the provision of humanitarian and medical assistance for the concerned people, most of whom remained stranded in the Evros river for days and pushed back. EuroMed Rights’ member, the Greek Refugee Council, issued a statement in support of the letter by the LIBE Committee.
- A group of approximately 30 people remained stranded on a islet in the Evros river at the beginning of June 2022, and were then violently pushed back to Turkey by Greek authorities. A few days later, the group tried to cross again and remained stuck on an islet in the Evros river, on Greek soil. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) granted interim measures for the group. Nonetheless, the group was left on the islet for hours, without food nor water and in need of urgent assistance. They were then approach by a group of uniformed men and a boat that was shooting in the air. The group was left on the islet for at least 30 hours, despite the ECHR ruling. After that, Alarm Phone lost contact with the group and assumes they were pushed back in blatant violation of international law. Previously, a similar case occurred, where 52 Syrian refugees remained stranded on an islet in the Evros region, despit the ECHR intervention to grant them interim measures.
- The court of Mytilene accused two teenagers – A.A and M.H – for the fires that destroyed the Moria camp, together with four other Afghans. The teenagers were under-age when they were arrested. Legal Centre Lesvos also reported that none of the witnesses brought by the prosecution identified the two teenagers, but the Court convicted them nonetheless. In parallel, the Athens Juvenile Court of Appeal ruled in favor of A.A, finding him innocent and demanding his release from prison. A similar judgement is expected to come in July for M.H.
- Greece began deploying more border police along the Evros border with Turkey, and is also planning to increase technical equipment such as water cannons, unmanned aerial vehicles, tear gas and flash grenades.
For the period from June 2021 to May 2022, click here.
For the period from September 2020 to June 2021, click here.