Human Rights Watch on Thursday said Greece was using suspected migrants as proxies to illegally push back fellow asylum seekers at its land border with Turkey.
“Greek security forces are employing third country nationals, men who appear to be of Middle Eastern or South Asian origin, to push asylum seekers back at the Greece-Turkey land border,” the group said in a report.
HRW said asylum seekers had been handed over to “masked men” and forced to cross the river back to the Turkish side after being stripped of their money, phones, and other possessions, and most of their clothing.
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The group said it had interviewed 26 Afghan migrants and asylum seekers, 23 of whom were allegedly pushed back from Greece to Turkey across the Evros River between September 2021 and February 2022.
“There can be no denying that the Greek government is responsible for the illegal pushbacks at its borders, and using proxies to carry out these illegal acts does not relieve it of any liability,” said HRW’s refugee and migrant rights director Bill Frelick.
“The European Commission should urgently open legal proceedings and hold the Greek government accountable for violating EU laws prohibiting collective expulsions,” he added.
Sixteen of those interviewed said the boats taking them back to Turkey were piloted by men who spoke Arabic or the South Asian languages common among migrants.
The boat captains allegedly said they were also migrants who were employed by the Greek police with promises of being provided with documents enabling them to travel onward.
Greece has consistently denied that its security forces engage in illegal pushbacks. Last week, Greece’s national transparency authority said a four-month investigation initiated in November had found no evidence of such practices.