Σάββατο 2 Μαρτίου 2019


Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για Crossing through the land border: What are the risks?

The route across the land border between Greece and Turkey holds many dangers for refugees, especially during winter time. In recent months, we’ve received several complaints from people who experienced pushbacks when trying to cross into Greece’s northeastern region of Evros, including this one:
"They forced all males to give all their money and mobile phones. The men were also forced to take off their clothes and some were even obliged to take off their underwear and swim the river, in the middle of the night, back to the Turkey shore. All women and children were just robbed and returned back by boat."
This group of refugees was arrested by police and detained for up to 4 days before being returned back to Turkey by the Greek army, according to the message.

The number of similar reports has increased as more and more people have been crossing through the land border in the past year. Arrivals rose significantly in the Evros area in April 2018 when over 3,600 refugees crossed the Evros River (also called Meriç in Turkish). In Greece, UNHCR reported it was the first time since 2013 that land arrivals surpassed sea arrivals on the Aegean islands.
According to the most recent data collected by UNHCR, the total number of Evros arrivals in 2018 is more than triple the total in 2017. More than 18,000 refugees arrived by land in 2018 compared to an estimated 5,600 in 2017.

Why are people crossing through Evros?

Many people who’ve recently crossed through Evros see the route as an alternative to going through the Greek islands, where refugees face bigger barriers as a result of the EU-Turkey Deal and geographical restrictions.
Signed in March 2016, the EU-Turkey Deal was intended to deport people who arrive on the Greek islands and do not qualify for asylum in Greece back to Turkey. This is a special process called the Fast-Track Border Procedure. In practice, this procedure takes a long time and many cases are still pending.
As a result of the deal, those who arrive on the Greek islands are not allowed to leave the island before their asylum case is processed, which can take months or — in many cases — years.
Asylum-seekers who arrive through the land border and are arrested by police are placed in detention. As they don't fall under the EU-Turkey Deal, people from countries with higher asylum recognition rates are usually released and allowed to move freely through the country much sooner.
UNHCR reported that the majority of those who arrived through the land border in spring 2018 were Kurds from Afrin, in northern Syria, as well as people fleeing from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other parts of Syria.

Read more about the dangers of crossing the land border from Turkey into Greece:
If you have any more questions about the situation at the land border, please don’t hesitate to message us on Facebook. We will do our best to get you answers as soon as possible.
Cover Photo: Orestis Seferoglou (photo's color edited slightly)


Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για Hidden dangers at the Greece-Turkey land border

You can use this article to learn more about the dangers of crossing the land border from Turkey into Greece, including:
  • Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Railway accidents
  • Car accidents

If you have any more questions about the situation at the land border, please don’t hesitate to message us on Facebook. We will do our best to get you answers as soon as possible.
At the University Hospital of Alexandroupoli, Associate Professor of Forensic Medicine Pavlos Pavlidis has the sad privilege of examining and identifying the bodies that wash up on the banks of the Evros River, which forms a natural border between Greece and Turkey.
"Since 2000, more than 350 bodies have been recovered along the Evros River," he told Refugee.Info. "Moreover, we estimate that over the past 18 years there have been more than 1,500 bodies that have never been found."

Through detailed forensic analysis and DNA tests, Dr. Pavlidis managed to identify and link 103 of the recovered bodies to a living family. The rest remain unidentified.
There are crossings where it can take less than 20 minutes to paddle across the Evros River and reach Greece's riverside from Turkey. Smugglers usually advertise this proximity, intentionally covering the fact that there are many hidden dangers along the way.
Dr. Pavlides explained to Refugee.Info that the major cause of death, as observed through his forensic examinations, is drowning. Second on the list comes hypothermia and a recently added risk is railway accidents.



The river crossing in Evros may be short, but people who are afraid of the water and unfamiliar surroundings can easily panic and fall off the boat. The rubber boats refugees use cannot protect them from a fast current or a flood, which are pretty common, especially during winter months.
Underwater logging — the process of logging trees from underwater forests — and excessive mud in the Evros River cause bodies to get snagged in the branches that are fixed at the bottom. Unlike the sea, the river also has no salt to push the bodies up.


The risk of hypothermia in the Evros region is high during winter and spring, when the temperature is extremely low and the air is humid. People who fail to cross the Evros River and remain stranded on its rocky islets are especially affected.
Other refugees who cross the river, usually at night, try to hide in abandoned warehouses where they fall asleep exhausted in the cold.
They do not light fires, fearing that they might be traced by the authorities. The combination of cold weather and their wet clothing can lead to hypothermia, which can cause complete failure of their heart and respiratory system and eventually death as soon as they fall asleep.
Those who die from hypothermia can maintain the last body posture and facial expression they had when they fell asleep.

Railway accidents

Since 2016, the number of railway accidents has also been on the rise in Evros, with a total of 12 known deaths. Refugees try to jump on freight trains, according to Dr. Pavlos Pavlidis, the forensic pathologist at the Alexandroupoli University Hospital.
“But they do not consider the risk as they think the trains move with the same speed as the trains in their countries of origin,” he said. “Trains in Greece move much faster than they expect and accidents are frequent. Unfortunately, bodies are shred to pieces and thus it is very hard to identify them.”

Car accidents

During the last few months of 2018, officials recorded an increase in migrant and asylum-seeker deaths from traffic accidents in the Evros area, including women and children.
By mid-December, Dr. Pavlos Pavlidis said he had already seen dead bodies from 9 traffic accidents in 2018, up from 2 car crashes in 2017.
Most of the crashes take place on the Egnatia Odos highway. The drivers are often not familiar with Greece's driving rules, roads and landscape.
According to IRIN news, both reckless practices by human smugglers and attempts to avoid arrest and return to Turkey are possible causes.
“Migrants and smugglers – usually hoping to reach Thessaloniki or Athens before moving elsewhere in Europe – know that the chance of reaching their final destination increases the further they go into the Greek mainland,” IRIN reported.
You can also learn about violent pushbacks on the border here.
Cover Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters (photo's color edited slightly)


Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για Pushbacks at the Greece-Turkey land border

You can use this article to learn more about violent pushbacks at Greece’s land border with Turkey, including:
  • Testimonials and reports of pushbacks
  • Your rights and what you can do
If you have any more questions about the situation at the land border, please don’t hesitate to message us on Facebook. We will do our best to get you answers as soon as possible.
Both sides of the Greece-Turkey border are heavily patrolled by border police and army forces.

The organization Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) reports that the number of cases where Greek police return asylum-seekers and migrants back across the border with Turkey, called pushbacks, has recently been increasing. GCR stated, “This is a systematic practice by the Greek police that violates fundamental human rights.”
GCR, the Association for the Social Support of Youth and HumanRights360 published a report in December with 39 testimonies from people who attempted to enter Greece from the Evros border with Turkey.

According to this report, among the victims are large families, pregnant women, victims of torture and also minors. Their testimonies all show similar trends, describing arbitrary detention in police stations with extremely poor hygienic conditions, the use of violence, destruction of belongings and transfers to overcrowded boats bound for the other side of the river.