Dropped in overburdened rafts in open sea, over a thousand refugees have been secretly expelled from European borders by the Greek government since March.
A New York Times analysis of evidence from three independent watchdogs, two academic researchers, and the Turkish Coast Guard has concluded that at least 1072 asylum seekers have been secretly expelled from EU borders by the Greek authorities.
Many of the refugees were sailed to the very edge of Greece’s territorial waters and left there in life rafts. This took place in at least 31 separate expulsions, that were documented in photographic and video form.
Survivors said that masked Greek officials transferred them during the night from the detention centers where they had been placed and subsequently abandoned them motorless inflatable rafts to be rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard. Others claim that Greek coastal police stopped their boats, disabled the engines, and towed them to Turkish waters.
In late February, Turkey, who currently hosts 3.6 million refugees of the Syrian war, more than any other nation, bused thousands of them to the land border that separates it with Greece.
While hostility towards refugees has been an undercurrent of Greek policy since the migrant crisis of 2015, the NYT claims that, during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities’ expulsions and interceptions of migrants have taken a more systematic and coordinated form. The global pandemic has provided Greece with an optimal opportunity to close off borders “to whoever they’ve wanted,” as attested by the hundreds of migrants being denied the right to seek asylum even after landing on Greek soil, and being forbidden to appeal their expulsion via the judicial system.
Though the Greek government has denied any “clandestine activities” have taken place, experts asked by the NYT said that the expulsions are illegal “in international law and European law.”
Earlier this year, the Greek government was accused of human rights violations against refugees, as a report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor undermined a number of serious incidents of violence perpetrated by the country’s authorities against asylum seekers. In March, a child drowned off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos after the boat he was in capsized.