Following reports of refugees being used in so-called pushbacks, the EU Commission has called on Greece to end “violent and illegal” refusals of asylum seekers.
“Protecting the EU’s external borders from illegal entry is an obligation,” said EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson on Twitter on Thursday after talks with several Greek government officials. “Forcible and illegal deportations of migrants must stop now”.
Johansson reminded that the disbursement of EU funds for migration and border management is linked to the “correct application of EU fundamental rights”.
Reports on the use of refugees in pushbacks
Several European media reported on Tuesday that the Greek police were using refugees for pushbacks at the EU’s external border. Several refugees were forced to force people to return to Turkey, reports the “Spiegel” and the ARD, among others.
In return, they were promised residence permits. According to reports, the police want to protect their own officials – the pushbacks are considered very dangerous.
According to European law, Greece must allow asylum seekers who reach Greek territory to seek asylum, but has ignored this law for years. In April, the Council of Europe denounced a significant increase in unlawful refusals of asylum seekers in European countries.
Greece denies allegations
The Greek merchant shipping minister has rejected media reports that the Greek coast guard is illegally pushing migrants back to Turkey – but without naming the specific allegations of the use of refugees in the pushbacks.
All complaints would be investigated, Giannis Plakiotakis told Skai news channel on Friday. “So far, none of these complaints have been confirmed at national or European level.”
Since the beginning of the year, the coast guard has legally prevented around 15,000 migrants from crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands. “The first priority is the protection of human life – always in compliance with international law,” said Plakiotakis.
In recent years, tens of thousands of people have been rescued by the coast guard in the Aegean.
Various aid organizations criticize that Athens is systematically pushing migrants back into Turkey. There are also research and media reports on such so-called pushbacks again and again.
Greece criticizes Turkey
Athens claims to protect its own national border and thus also the EU’s external border. The government also criticizes its neighbor Turkey; In 2016, in a refugee pact with the EU, Ankara committed itself to stopping smuggling activities at the Turkish border and taking back people whose asylum applications were rejected in Greece.
The country is considered a safe third country for Brussels and receives billions of euros from the EU for housing people, among other things. Since 2020, however, Turkey has stopped accepting migrants from Greece with reference to the corona pandemic.
According to the Greek government, the number of illegal entries has recently increased again. (AFP, dpa)