Greece hiring migrants from MENA 'to carry out illegal pushbacks' to Turkey: HRW

Greece hiring migrants from MENA 'to carry out illegal pushbacks' to Turkey: HRW
Greece hired migrants to illegally push asylum seekers back to Turkey on the promise that they would give them travel documents after completing a certain period of work, Human Rights Watch has revealed in a new report.
3 min read
08 April, 2022
Some of the migrants hired by Greece appear to be of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent [Getty]

Greece has hired migrants, some of apparent Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, to execute their cruel policy of pushbacks, Human Rights Watch said on Friday. 

In an explosive new report '"Their Faces Were Covered": Greece’s Use of Migrants as Police Auxiliaries in Pushbacks', the rights group documented several testimonies from Afghans forced to return to Turkey from Greece by people who spoke Arabic and South Asian languages. 

One of the interviewees, a former commander in the Afghan army, said a Pakistani man ferrying a boat back to Turkey told him that in exchange for three months' work, Greece would allow him to move freely. 

 “There can be no denying that the Greek government is responsible for the illegal pushbacks at its borders, and using proxies to carry out these illegal acts does not relieve it of any liability,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrant rights director at HRW.

The rights organisation interviewed 26 Afghan migrants and asylum seekers, 23 of whom were pushed back from Greece to Turkey across the Evros River between September 2021 to February 2022. 

They said Greek authorities detained them with little food or water for no more than 24 hours. Some claimed they were beaten by who they believed were Greek police. 

Then, the Afghans said, they were handed to masked men, who forced them onto small boats and back to the Turkish side. Three people spoke to the men ferrying the boats who said they were migrants employed by the Greek police. 

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Rights groups including HRW and Amnesty International have documented a de facto policy of pushbacks - which are illegal under international law - from Greece to Turkey. 

However, Greek authorities repeatedly denied such tactics have taken place, labelling claims of their use as “fake news” or “Turkish propaganda”.

The New Arab contacted the Greek Embassy in London for comment on these allegations, but they did not respond by the time of publication. 

Major General Dimitrios Mallios, chief of the Aliens & Border Protection Branch in Hellenic Police Headquarters, denied the allegations, HRW said.

There are some 12,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, many of whom fled from war-torn countries in the Middle East via Turkey, according to the International Rescue Committee. 

Around half a million Afghans fled their homeland in 2021 following the Taliban’s resurgence and fall of Kabul.