UNHCR alarmed at Greece’s migrant pushbacks

The U.N.’s refugee agency expressed concern about increasing reports of “horrific incidents” involving irregular migrants attempting to cross the border into Greece and other European countries being violently pushed back.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi decried “the increasing number of incidents of violence and serious human rights violations against refugees and migrants at various European borders,” with several resulting in loss of life. Greece was the one country he mentioned by name.

“We are alarmed by recurrent and consistent reports coming from Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey, where UNHCR has recorded almost 540 reported incidents of informal returns by Greece since the beginning of 2020,” Grandi said.

He added that three people have reportedly died since September 2021 in the Aegean Sea after being allegedly forced back from Greek waters. In some cases, Grandi said, migrants were reportedly “left adrift in life rafts or sometimes even forced directly into the water, showing a callous lack of regard for human life.”

“Equally horrific practices are frequently reported at land borders, with consistent testimonies of people being stripped and brutally pushed back in harsh weather conditions,” he added.

About a million people entered Greece through Turkey in 2015, on their way to seek a better life in Europe’s prosperous heartland. Greek authorities, assisted by EU partners, subsequently tightened border controls and built a fence along the land frontier with Turkey, drastically limiting arrivals. But allegations of illegal returns of migrants by Greece to Turkey – by land and sea – have increased.

On Feb. 3, Turkey said 19 migrants were found frozen to death on its land border with Greece, and accused Greek authorities of taking away their clothes and shoes and forcing them back into Turkey. -Agencies