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Press release: Institutional abuse of refugees and human rights violations on the Turkish-Greek border

March 10, 2020. THE GREEK TEAM OF THE EC-FUNDED INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH PROJECT “RESPOND: MULTILEVEL GOVERNANCE OF MASS MIGRATION IN EUROPE AND BEYOND”, EXPRESSES ITS DEEPEST CONCERN REGARDING THE UPSURGE OF RACIST VIOLENCE, INSTITUTIONAL ABUSE AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS UNFOLDING ON THE GREEK AND EUROPEAN SEA AND LAND BORDERS WITH TURKEY, WHERE THOUSANDS OF DISPLACED PEOPLE ARE STRANDED UNDER INHUMANE CONDITIONS.

Originally published by Respond Migration. Written by BY UNIVERSITY OF THE AEGEAN | RESPOND

Since the end of February, after the movement of thousands of refugees towards the Greek-Turkish borders of Evros and eastern Aegean islands, the Greek authorities have escalated security and violence for the “protection” of the sea and land borders. The extreme and inhuman practices of border forces include until today pushbacks, teargasing, abuse and arrests of new arrivals. Refugees and migrants are being instrumentalised by political actors on both sides of the border, who are jeopardizing their safety and causing severe violations of their rights. The decision of the Greek government to suspend the reception of asylum applications, following the increase of new arrivals from Turkey, is a highly worrisome parallel development and a direct violation of international law.

These inhuman Greek authorities’ practices at both the Greek and the EU’s borders were applauded by EU actors with no respect to the international human rights laws and non-refoulement principle.  The EU’s announcement regarding the 700.000.000 euro financial assistance to Greece seems to be aligned with the Greek government’s plans for the construction of closed detention facilities for asylum seekers, due to the fact that no other measures have been in force or announced from EU. Besides, containment and deterrence policies from the part of the EU constitute until today a common practice that has already resulted to the chronic overcrowding and dismal conditions at the refugee reception centers on the islands.

At the same time, various and escalating anger and racist incidents have been recorded on the Northeastern Aegean islands by groups of locals and fascists targeting refugees and migrants, staff of international organizations and NGOs, members of civil society, journalists and doctors who try to provide assistance to the refugee population. The rise of these racist incidents, from tensions to riots, roadblocks and attacks, has cultivated an explosive climate that is inextricably linked to the institutional targeting of refugees and migrants through the political and media discourse as an ‘asymmetric threat’, with devastating consequences. Τhe government’s plan of establishing closed detention facilities on the islands was also a factor sparking strong reactions from local and regional authorities which have rejected these plans as well as by the a large mass of the local population who have aggressively refused to allow the construction of the closed facilities.

We strongly believe that the Greek Government and the European Commission must address the real emergency and urgently coordinate adequate reception and asylum procedures instead of implementing exclusionary, containment and violent policies. Stranded people on the Greek islands under horrid conditions of living must immediately be transferred in the Greek mainland and subsequently to other EU countries. At the same time, competent authorities must ensure the implementation of an asylum system delivered by the principles of protection directives in respect of the human rights.

We call on the European Union and its Member States to stop promoting security-oriented policy solutions and act immediately to develop joint solutions – in line with a fair and rights-based approach to global migration governance.


On Sunday the Cars of Hope collective will travel to Greece again to support refugees. They need your support to continue their work.

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