HRW slams Greece for ‘double standards’ on irregular migrants


 ATHENS APR 07, 2022

A Ukrainian child refugee is playing after his arrival by bus at the Greece-Bulgarian border at Promachonas border post, northern Greece, March 11,  2022. (AFP Photo)

A Ukrainian child refugee is playing after his arrival by bus at the Greece-Bulgarian border at Promachonas border post, northern Greece, March 11, 2022. (AFP Photo)

The Human Rights Watch Thursday accused Greek authorities of showing double standards in accepting Ukrainian refugees but rejecting irregular Afghan and other migrants at the border with Turkey.

In a 29-page report, the rights watchdog said Greek forces detained, stripped, and stole the belongings of irregular migrants from Afghanistan and the Middle East before sending them back toward the Turkish side.

It added that none of these were legally registered and hence had no right to seek refuge.

“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 Bill Frelick, the Human Rights Watch’s refugee and migrant rights director.

The watchdog also criticized Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi for calling Ukrainian refugees to be “real refugees.”

“At a time when Greece welcomes Ukrainians as ‘real refugees,’ it conducts cruel pushbacks on Afghans and others fleeing similar war and violence,” Frelick said.

“The double standard makes a mockery of the purported shared European values of equality, the rule of law, and human dignity,” he added.

According to the group’s interviews with 26 Afghans, 23 of them were pushed back at Greece’s borders between September 2021 and February 2022.

The 23 men, two women, and one boy confirmed that after their detention, they were kept with little or no food or anything to drink before being pushed back to Turkey.

Around 16 migrants interviewed confirmed that the men who pushed them to the Turkish border spoke Arabic and wore black or commando-style uniforms with balaclava helmets to cover their faces.

“Three people interviewed were able to talk with the men ferrying the boats. The boat pilots told them (that) they were also migrants employed by the Greek police with promises of being provided with documents enabling them to travel onward,” the watchdog said.

“We are here doing this work for three months, and then they give us … a document. With this, we can move freely inside Greece and later get a ticket for another country,” one of the migrants interviewed by the human rights organization said of the boat’s operator.

The driver was believed to be a Pakistani, the report said.

The group urged Greece to immediately halt all illegal pushbacks from Greek territory and discontinue using third-country nationals as proxies to carry out these expulsions.

It added that the European Commission, Greece’s primary source of financial assistance for migration control, should require Athens to end all “summary returns and collective expulsions” of asylum-seekers to Turkey and “press authorities to establish an independent and effective border monitoring mechanism that would investigate allegations of violence at borders, and ensure that none of its funding contributes to violations of fundamental rights and EU laws.”


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