Pushbacks at the Greece-Turkey land border

You can use this article to learn more about violent pushbacks at Greece’s land border with Turkey, including:

  • Testimonials and reports of pushbacks
  • Your rights and what you can do

If you have any more questions about the situation at the land border, please don’t hesitate to message us on Facebook. We will do our best to get you answers as soon as possible.

Both sides of the Greece-Turkey border are heavily patrolled by border police and army forces.

The organization Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) reports that the number of cases where Greek police return asylum-seekers and migrants back across the border with Turkey, called pushbacks, has recently been increasing. GCR stated, “This is a systematic practice by the Greek police that violates fundamental human rights.”

GCR, the Association for the Social Support of Youth and HumanRights360 published a report in December with 39 testimonies from people who attempted to enter Greece from the Evros border with Turkey.

According to this report, among the victims are large families, pregnant women, victims of torture and also minors. Their testimonies all show similar trends, describing arbitrary detention in police stations with extremely poor hygienic conditions, the use of violence, destruction of belongings and transfers to overcrowded boats bound for the other side of the river.

Konstantinos-Tsakalidis---Al-Jazeera_Evros-Blog_Jan-2019.jpg-correct-copy

Below are some of their testimonies:

18-year-old Algerian citizen: “My friend was beaten up so badly that when [the police] returned us to Turkey he had to be hospitalized… They called a truck, carrying an inflatable boat they used to push us back. They took all our belongings, including our clothes. We were left with our underwear only."

21-year-old Egyptian citizen: “At random moments, without provocation, they started punching and kicking us... At the warehouse, they conducted another body search, took our money and mobile phones, and asked us to strip down. They forced the whole group to knee down facing the wall. They kept us there without food or water... They drove us to the river, forced us to board on boats and returned us back to Turkey.”

27-year-old Syrian citizen: “We showed [the police officers] the documents we had, and the police tore them in pieces. They arrested us and led us to a holding cell. We were 7 people by that point, 3 women, 3 children, my brother and I...They threw away all the things we had in our bags, and asked for our mobile phones and money. They gave us the money back, but broke our phones in front of our eyes. Throughout the process we were given no food or water. They even confiscated the baby formula we had. There were more people in the cell, without provisions for keeping women and children in separate cells. There were 8 beds and one toilet. We were drinking water from that toilet, as they didn’t give us any.”

UNHCR has also publicly expressed concern and Human Rights Watch released a report in December describing 24 incidents of pushbacks and violence in Evros, along with footage of men with prominent scars on their backs caused by attacks by Greek police.

What are my rights and what can I do?

These reports of arbitrary detention, violence at the hands of border officials, and poor conditions in detention centers violate international laws on human rights and refugee protection. These laws grant you the right to fair legal treatment and prohibit torture or degrading treatment of prisoners.

Lawyers at the organization SolidarityNow said if you cross the border and encounter the Greek police, you have the right to:

  • Ask for asylum and ask that this request is registered
  • Ask for legal assistance
  • Ask for an interpreter

If you are detained, you have a right to know what you’re being charged with and what the process is to contest that charge — although that right is often not respected in practice.

If authorities do not respond to the above requests or you want to report your experience, you can contact:

Frontex uses their complaint procedure to monitor whether your fundamental rights are respected in all of its border operations.

You can also contact Human Rights Watch, who collects testimonials in order raise awareness about human rights violations and to advocate for these practices to end. They, however, cannot file an official complaint on your behalf or provide legal support.

Find more here on what to expect and how to seek asylum when you arrive in Greece through the land border in Evros.

You can also learn more about other risks you may face on the border including drowning, hypothermia and railway accidents here.

Cover Photo: Konstantinos Tsakalidis / Al Jazeera (photo's color edited slightly)
Tweet and Video: Human Rights Watch