Turkey urges Greece to cease illegal “pushback” of migrants

Turkey has called on Greece’s new government, through a statement by its Foreign Ministry, to put an end to what it described as the illegal practice of pushing back irregular migrants over the Turkish border.

“Despite Greece’s denial of the fact that irregular migrants are being pushed back to Turkey by Greek authorities, incidents of push backs of irregular migrants by Greek officials from Greece to Turkey continue both at land and sea,” the ministry said in a written statement on Sunday.

According to the statement, a total of 25,404 irregular migrants were pushed back from Greece to Turkey in the first month of 2019, marking a dramatic increase compared to the 11,867 migrants who were subjected to the same practice in 2018.

The majority of the migrants are from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan who have crossed into Greece from Turkey, without passing through border posts, with the aim of reaching the wealthier European countries such as Germany.

The ministry noted that the Turkish government has “all sorts of images, photographs, documents as well as testimonies of pushed back persons regarding push back practices of the Greek officials.”

It was revealed in those testimonies, the ministry added, that their belongings were confiscated and they were subjected to “unacceptable treatment” such as being beaten prior to being pushed back to Turkish borders by Greek officials.

“We invite the new Greek government to work on correcting this policy that is violating international law, instead of denying push back incidents, which we have every information and document of,” the ministry concluded.

Although Greece is obliged to register any illegal migrants entering its territory in line with international laws and conventions, this has not always been the case especially since the beginning of the refugee influx into Europe in 2015.

Turkey and the European Union reached a deal on March 18, 2016, which resulted in a significant decrease in the number of migrants crossing Europe through the country.

As part of the deal, the Turkish state started tightening controls on migrants trying to reach Europe in exchange for €3 billion from the EU aid and a promise to ease visa restrictions for Turks.


In December 2018, Greek NGOs that include the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS) and HumanRights360 published a report on the illegal practice of pushbacks.

Entitled “The new normality: Continuous push-backs of third-country nationals on the Evros river,” the report involved testimonies of dozens of people who attempted to cross the Evros river to enter Greece, but who were pushed back to Turkey, in some cases, after being beaten by masked men.

The NGOs held forth that the push-back operations are “a threat to the rule of law” in Greece, urging Athens to take action in order to prevent such practices.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe have also called on the Greek authorities to investigate reports and claims on the alleged cases of pushbacks.

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