Violations at the borders

Human Rights Violations persist at the land and sea borders. In the past few years, there have been increasing reports of push-backs by Greek border forces and coastguard, deaths linked to the inhuman conditions in the Eastern Aegean hotspots and detrimental reforms in asylum law seeking to speed up returns to Turkey.

Push-back practices lead to violations of core rights of asylum-seekers such as the right to asylum and the right to be protected against refoulement. In the past two years, there has been a significant increase in reports of push-backs of asylum-seekers and migrants to Turkey from the Greek-Turkish land border. There is also alarm over reported collective expulsions of groups of asylum-seekers who arrived on the Greek islands and increasing allegations – accompanied in some cases by audio-visual material – about push-backs of refugee boats by masked men and Greek Coast Guard vessels or aggressive deterrence tactics.

Most recent reports refer to conduct including: Greek Coast Guard vessel manoeuvres in high-speed near refugee boats; confiscation of fuel and/or destruction of engines; pointing of guns at the individuals on board refugee boats; towing of the boats towards Turkey, leaving people adrift on often unseaworthy and overcrowded dinghies and putting their lives at risk. In some cases, the reports received referred to the following conduct: ramming of the refugee boats; firing of shots near the refugee boats or in the air.

RSA together with PRO ASYL continues to monitor and document developments and human rights violations in the land and sea border between Greece and Turkey and represent victims of such violations before national authorities and international human rights bodies.

In the context of monitoring Europe’s repressive migration policies, RSA researches and analyses issues such as the expansion of the mandate of the European Border and Coastguard Agency (Frontex), as well as questions relating to the accountability of its staff for potential violations of fundamental rights.

Over 1,600 persons seeking safety have died or gone missing in their attempt to cross the Eastern Mediterranean since the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2015. Several others including small children and unaccompanied children died in the unsafe and overcrowded hotspots of the Eastern Aegean islands since the beginning of the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. The causes of death vary from lack of winterization measures to fires that broke out in their dwellings as well as violence due to lack of protection.

In all these cases, those remaining behind, the close family and other relatives face an enormous challenge, in registering their deaths, organising their funerals and seeking justice.

RSA closely monitors shipwreck incidents on both sides of the Aegean. It also assists families of those who died in the Aegean or in hotspots in their efforts to identify their lost family members, register the death of their loved ones and in seeking justice in cases where there is a possible responsibility of the Greek State.

In the past year, RSA has also co-operated with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a project that documents deaths at the land and sea borders of Greece with Turkey.

  • All
  • Border deaths
  • Frontex and border surveillance
  • Push backs-collective expulsions
  • Quality of the asylum procedure

11 Jul: Key points from the Press Conference regarding Farmakonisi Shipwreck

Athens, 11/7/2022 Moderation: Dimitris Angelidis, Journalist Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, former Greece Representative, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees I want to…

07 Jul: Justice for the shipwrecked in Farmakonisi – Invitation to Press Conference​

Today’s judgment from the ECtHR comes eight years following the tragic incident. It vindicates the victims by awarding compensation from the Greek State and brings to light an issue systematically concealed in public discourse: push backs and systematic deterrence practices which put lives at risk on a daily basis in Evros and the Aegean.

24 Jun: Systemic breaches of the rule of law and of the EU asylum acquis at Greece’s borders brought before the European Parliament

six Greek civil society organisations, members of the Informal Forced Returns Recording Mechanism established by the Greek National Commission for Human Rights in response to systematic push back allegations in the country, submitted a briefing to the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), covering systemic breaches of the rule of law and the EU acquis by Greek authorities.

03 Jun: One more acquittal shows the dramatic consequences of the criminalisation of refugees entering in EU territory

ONE MORE ACQUITTAL SHOWS THE DRAMATIC CONSEQUENCES OF THE CRIMINALISATION OF REFUGEES ENTERING IN EU TERRITORY On May 19, 2022,…

07 Apr: National Transparency Authority should publish the full investigation regarding pushbacks in accordance with the principle of transparency 

National Transparency Authority should publish the full investigation regarding pushbacks in accordance with the principle of transparency Download the Press…

24 Feb: Deaths at the borders. Urgent need to use appropriate protocols in refugee and migrant shipwrecks

Almost two months after the deadly shipwrecks in Paros, Folegandros and Antikythera, the bodies of missing refugees and migrants are still found scattered all over the Aegean. The survivors – relatives and companions of these people who were anxiously searching for clues about their fate, instead of receiving the necessary psychosocial care under decent accommodation conditions, were taken to the Pre-removal Detention Centre (PROKEKA) in Amygdaleza where they remained in administrative detention for more than a month. The recent shipwrecks have once again highlighted the huge shortcomings in the information, support and care of survivors, in the coordination for the management of shipwreck victims such as the protocol for the search and identification of the missing and dead respectively and the referral to an appropriate accommodation facility.

19 Oct: The timeline of a pushback of a Syrian refugee in Evros, as documented by RSA

Greek authorities unlawfully pushed a group including Syrian refugee back to Turkey through the Evros land border, while a procedure for interim measures was pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

28 Apr: Greek civil society requests European Commission assessment on respect of EU asylum law safeguards at the Greek borders

Download the Letter In a letter sent on 27 April 2021 to the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson,…

30 Mar: Joint Action against push-backs signed by 49 NGO’s

Over the last years, the undersigned organisations have been receiving allegations of push-backs at the country’s land and sea borders….

07 Jun: PUSH BACKS AT EVROS BORDERS: A DISREGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE AND LEGALITY

Athens, May 2, 2019 The borders of Greece at Evros tend to become an area outside the law, a place…

13 Aug: EUROPE’S ‘SUCCESS STORY’

On 9 August, the Aegean became once more a graveyard for seven refugee children after a boat carrying around 13…

03 Jul: AGATHONISI TRAGEDY: INVESTIGATION MUST SHED LIGHT ON CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATHS OF REFUGEES LAST MARCH  

PRO-ASYL and Refugee Support Aegean wish to express once more their profound concerns over the loss of sixteen lives following the capsizing of…

26 Jun: #AgathonisiShipwreck: The case file

On 16 March 2018, a refugee boat sank near the Greek island of Agathonisi. Sixteen persons perished including seven children…

11 Jul: Code of Conduct for INGOs Involved in SAR Operations in the Mediterranean

Statewatch has leaked a version of the code of contact the European Commission has demanded that INGOs involved in SAR…

20 Jun: Syrian acquitted for deaths of refugees in Farmakonisi case

The Felony Appeal Court of Dodecanese in Rhodes decided yesterday that the young Syrian – sentenced initially to 25 years…