Παρασκευή, 16 Νοεμβρίου 2018


Special Report

On an eastern frontier of the European Union, people are whisked back to Turkey before they can claim asylum in Greece.

Eric Reidy

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για An open secret: Refugee pushbacks across the Turkey-Greece border
The area around the Evros River is a closed military zone. Eric Reidy/IRIN

This is the third of a three-part special report on the Evros River border crossing between Turkey and Greece. Read the other instalments: “Greece’s man in the migrant morgue” andUnprepared and overwhelmed: Greece’s resurgent river border with Turkey.”

For more migration coverage see our series Destination: Europe

Linda, a 19-year-old Syrian and registered refugee, had just crossed from Turkey into Greece at the Evros River when men carrying guns appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. She wasn’t sure if they were police officers or soldiers, but they emerged from behind trees and wore dark uniforms that helped them blend into the night.

It was mid-May, and several hours earlier Linda had boarded a mini-bus in Istanbul with around 35 other people, including children and a pregnant woman, eager to enter European Union territory. The trip had been organised by smugglers, and the passengers ended up in a remote area close to the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne. At around three in the morning they boarded small boats that ferried them across the river.

Linda’s plan was to get into Greece, then make her way to Denmark, where her fiancé lives. Her crossing was part of a sharp uptick in traffic into the EU via the Evros (known as the Meriç in Turkish) this spring; 3,600 people are known to have crossed in April alone, compared to just over 1,000 in all of 2013.
But she didn’t make it more than a few steps into EU territory before she was stopped.
The men demanded that everyone in the group hand over their mobile phones. “Then they beat the men who were with us, put us in a boat, and sent us back to the Turkish side of the border,” Linda recalled when she spoke to IRIN recently in Istanbul.
Pushbacks like the one Linda experienced have been going on for years, documented by both human rights watchdogs and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR. They are also illegal under European and international law.
“The right to claim and enjoy asylum is a fundamental human right," Leo Dobbs, a UNHCR spokesman in Greece, told IRIN. Pushbacks at the Evros border, he added, are a “serious issue.”
According to a report released by the Greek Council for Refugees in February, before the spring rush, pushbacks have increased to the point of being “systematic” as the number of people crossing the Evros has grown slowly in the past two years.
The Evros River border between Turkey and Greece is one of the easternmost frontiers of the European Union. Until a fence went up on all but 12 kilometres of the Evros in 2012, it was the easiest and safest path for asylum seekers from the Middle East and elsewhere to reach Europe, and nearly 55,000 people crossed the border irregularly in 2011.

Map of border between Greece and Turkey showing Evros, Meric river, Edirne, and AlexandroupoliA controversial 2016 EU-Turkey deal that paved the way for asylum seekers to be returned from the Greek Islands to Turkey (which it deems safe under the terms of that agreement), does not apply to the Evros border. Instead, there is a separate, largely ineffective bilateral readmission agreement dating from 2002 that was suspended earlier this year.
Even under the terms of that agreement, pushbacks like the one Linda experienced violate European and international laws on refugee protection, which require states to allow asylum seekers to file for protection and prohibit sending them back to countries where they may face danger. While countries are allowed to protect their borders, they cannot legally return people who have already crossed without first evaluating their claims.

Πέμπτη, 15 Νοεμβρίου 2018


Special Report

When an old migration route became new again, the Evros region was caught on the back foot

Sarah Souli

Life jackets abandoned on the Greek side of the Evros river. Nikolaos Symeonidis/IRIN

This is the second of a three-part special report on the Evros River border crossing between Turkey and Greece. Read the other instalments: “An open secret: Refugee pushbacks across the Turkey-Greece border” andGreece’s man in the migrant morgue”.
For more migration coverage see our series 
Destination: Europe

Locals in Evros are used to new faces. People have been quietly slipping across the river that forms a natural barrier for all but 12 kilometres of the tense, militarised border between Greece and Turkey since Greece joined the European Union in 1981.

But everyone on the Evros River was puzzled when a crush of hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers began crossing their sleepy riverine border every day in March. Six months later, arrivals have slowed but worries persist that the region is still poorly prepared for any new influx.
At the rush’s height in April, more than 3,600 crossed the river in one month, surpassing the total number of people arriving in Greece by sea for the first time since 2012. They came across the Evros on plastic dinghies, and once on Greek soil they were picked up by smugglers in cars or continued the journey by foot. The banks of the river were littered with discarded clothes, water bottles, food and medicine packages, and flotation devices, which remain there today.
Despite its history of migration, Evros, one of Greece’s poorest regions, was caught off guard. Hundreds of new arrivals were crammed into police stations, waiting for months to lodge their asylum claims. There were no NGOs to help out. Conditions were dismal, and services limited.
“We are all surprised with the rise in arrivals in Evros, and the lack of Greek preparation,” said Georgia Spyropoulou, an advocacy officer with the Hellenic League for Human Rights, from her office in Athens.
Greek officials say they were caught unawares too, with a local police commissioner telling the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, in June that “it is necessary to be prepared in case there is an increase in arrivals again.” Still, local police insisted they were doing the best they could with the resources available to them.
No one is quite sure what prompted the flood of people in the first place. And plenty of of people are still making their way to Evros – 9,480 by the end of July, taking a gamble on a border that looks safe but can be deadly – 29 people have died this year during the crossing or shortly after.


Special Report

The Evros River is an increasingly popular route into Europe despite its deadly record

Sarah Souli

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για Greece’s man in the migrant morgue
Over 300 people are buried in the village of Sidiro, but just a few have tombstones.
CREDIT: Nikolaos Symeonidis/IRIN

This is the first of a three-part special report on the Evros River border crossing between Turkey and Greece. Read the other instalments: “An open secret: Refugee pushbacks across the Turkey-Greece border” and Unprepared and overwhelmed: Greece’s resurgent river border with Turkey.”

For more migration coverage see our series Destination: Europe

Pavlos Pavlidis has spent nearly two decades examining and identifying the bodies of migrants and asylum seekers who have died attempting one of the least known but deadliest routes into Europe.

So far, that's 359 bodies – a grim count and occupation. Pavlidis is tall, with sloping shoulders and a cigarette perpetually affixed to his hand. He has the gentle but clinical demeanour of someone used to delivering bad news, but would rather see what he does as bringing answers to the living.
“For me, it’s very important that I give an answer to people,” says Pavlidis, who is in his mid fifties and personally inspects every body that washes up on the Greek side of the muddy banks of the Evros River that divides Greece and Turkey. “It’s not a good answer. It’s a tragedy – but at least it’s an answer.”
At first glance, the river where most of the corpses come from looks quaint and harmless enough. Sunflower fields dot the banks, local tavernas serve up the water’s main catch, a meaty catfish, and the water itself is just a couple dozen metres wide.
But this is one of the deadliest border crossings in Europe. Until 2010, it was riddled with 25,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines, buried by Greece in 1974 after Turkey invaded Cyprus. Today, all but 12 kilometres of the border are fenced off.

Κυριακή, 7 Οκτωβρίου 2018



Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για OMCT

OMCT logo


                 Via Email:

Geneva, 20 September 2018

Re: Systematic police violence and illegal deportation of asylum seekers in Evros

Dear Prime Minister,

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the leading global network of civil society organisations against torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and all other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the world, is writing to you to express its grave concern and to call upon your intervention in response to the following situation in Evros region.

The OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a member of the OMCT SOS - Torture Network, about the alarming amount of reported cases and allegations of ill-treatment and illegal deportation of asylum seekers in the Evros region of Greece.

According to the information received, there is on-going and systematic use of violence against asylum seekers by law enforcement officers in the Evros border area with Turkey. The Greek authorities are detaining and arresting asylum seekers before sending them back to Turkey. People in need of international protection are being illegally deported without allowing them to file for asylum all the while destroying their personal items and documents.

According to the cases reported, migrants in Evros are regularly subjected to brutal beatings and deplorable conditions of detention that amount to ill-treatment and torture. Their subsequent expulsion and transport are characterised by further ill-treatment such as being crammed into small vans and overcrowded boats, risking their lives once more. Victims of these expulsions include vulnerable migrants such as pregnant women and minors.

Photographic evidence and video recordings have been provided by civil society organisations depicting injuries sustained from severe beatings. The images of 13 persons arrested by the Greek police near Mavrokklisi, Evros on 11 August 2018 show severe signs of violence. Moreover, their phones, passport and money were taken from them before being illegally deported to Turkey. Pictures of a woman from Syria who entered Greece from the Evros area with her three children before 11 August 2018 allege that she was severely beaten before being summarily deported to Turkey.

International rights bodies have criticised Greece in the past for failing to address allegations of police abuse and have called for complaints mechanisms to investigate abuse allegations. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited Greece from 10 to 19 April 2018 and documented 15 cases of ill-treatment. The delegation of the CPT received several consistent and credible allegations of forcible removals of foreign nationals by boat from Greece to Turkey at the Evros River border by Greek police, border guards or paramilitary commandos.

The OMCT reiterates that collective expulsion is a practice prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Accordingly, the OMCT respectfully urges the authorities of Greece to:

  • Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all migrants and asylum seekers in Greece; 

  • Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the events described above in the Evros region in order to identify all those responsible, and sanction them as provided by the law;

  • Ensure that adequate, effective and prompt reparation, including adequate compensation and rehabilitation, is granted to the victims for the violation of their human rights;

  • Conduct human rights trainings for the law enforcement officials, including police officers and border guards;

  • Ensure the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards, in particular ensure the respect of the principle of non-refoulement in accordance with international and regional human rights instruments Greece has ratified, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

In the hope that the concerns expressed in this letter will receive the attention they deserve, we remain at your disposal for any further information.

Yours sincerely,

Gerald Staberock
Secretary General

Copies to:
-       Minister of Justice Mr. Michalis Kalogirou, Email:
-       Minister for Citizens Protection of Greece, Mr. Olga Gerovasili, Email:
-       General Secretary for Transparency and Human Rights, Ms. Maria Yannakaki, Email: