Greek border police illegally deporting Syrian refugees
Attempts by migrants to reach EU countries have resulted in hundreds of deaths in recent weeks
A Syrian Alawite refugee woman sits with her children in a tent at the courtyard of Pirsultan Abdal Cemevi in Istanbul on October 11th last. Turkey has registered more than 600,000 Syrian refugees. Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters
Syrian refugees detained by Greek police last month say they were beaten and denied food and water during a 12-hour detention period.
“Mohammad”, a medical professional from the Syrian city of Hama, said he and five others sought the help of smugglers to get from Istanbul to Sweden via Greece last month. However, within hours of reaching Greece, they found themselves being beaten by border police, forced on to a boat and covertly returned to Turkish territory under cover of darkness.
“What we suffered there, it was like shaking hands with the devil,” he said from an apartment in central Istanbul.
“Some countries say they are ‘friends of Syria’. They are liars.”
Attempts by migrants to reach EU countries have resulted in hundreds of deaths in recent weeks.
On October 3rd, more than 360 African migrants drowned when their boat caught fire and sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. On October 11th, at least 33 people drowned in Maltese waters after their vessel capsized. Many were refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and survivors claimed their boat was fired on by Libyan smugglers.
Thousands of illegal migrants and refugees have made their way to Greece over the past 12 months, particularly as the humanitarian crisis caused by Syria’s 36-month uprising-turned-war worsens.
Upon being returned to a swamp on Turkish territory, Mohammad, who asked not to be identified by his real name as his family remains in government-controlled Syria, said he and about 25 others refugees thought they would die after being abandoned by Greek police.
He said they had no idea where they had ended up because of the inhospitable surroundings. Mohammad and his five companions lost €2,550 in payments to smugglers.
Rights groups say this is not the first time Greek authorities have been accused of mistreating migrants and asylum seekers. Amnesty International Greece said it had collected “an alarming number of testimonies from migrants, documenting push-back operations conducted by the Greek border [police] and coastguards”.
“International and EU law prohibit the forcible return [re- foulement] of refugees and asylum seekers to the country they fled or push them back at the border,” said Amnesty Greece spokesman Maro Savvopoulou.
“The laws also prohibit the collective expulsions, namely the deportation of groups of irregular migrants, without looking at each case individually and without considering the individual circumstances of each person separately.”