Posted on May 21, 2020

Greek Police Are Rounding Up Asylum Seekers and Forcing Them into Turkey, Migrants Say

Raja Abdulrahim, Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2020

Greek police, escalating their tough measures against migration, have been rounding up asylum seekers living in the country and forcibly expelling them to Turkey, according to accounts by migrants who have experienced this, lawyers and human-rights activists.

Nadeem Kohistani had been at a migrant camp in Greece for more than two months when, he says, Greek police handcuffed him, drove him more than 200 miles back to the Turkish border and forced the 18-year-old Afghan to get on a smuggler’s boat to cross the Evros River.

He said he and other migrants showed the police their Greek official documents indicating they had taken the first step toward applying for asylum, but that the police expelled them anyway. Police officers beat them and took their money and cellphones, he said.

“At the river they said, ‘This is where we drop you, go to the river and go outside of Greece,’” Mr. Kohistani said. He said he and the other migrants had no choice.

At least 250 asylum seekers have been forcibly expelled from Greece since late March, according to cases documented by the Border Violence Monitoring Network, a nongovernmental organization that documents information on European countries’ pushbacks of migrants. Simon Campbell, a field coordinator with the network, said he believes the real number is bigger, given that many migrants who are returned to Turkey don’t speak out.

Greek government officials denied all reports of extrajudicial deportations but didn’t answer specific questions regarding the allegations by migrants and human-rights groups.

This year, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said publicly that his country wouldn’t tolerate illegal entries and would protect its borders.


But since March, the police have expanded pushbacks to deep inside Greece’s territory, sweeping up asylum seekers who have in some cases been in the country for months, according to migrants, lawyers and nongovernmental organizations.

Beginning in late February, Greece deployed extra troops to its land border with Turkey to stop large numbers of migrants who were openly encouraged by Turkey’s government to try to cross into Greece. Nearly all of the migrants were blocked or pushed back quickly after entering Greek territory. {snip}

Greece suspended its asylum-applications procedure in March for a month. Asylum offices remained closed until May because of the coronavirus.

Since a 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey fell apart in recent months, there is no longer an official way for Greece to send migrants back to Turkey who don’t qualify for asylum. Human-rights activists allege Greek authorities have turned to unofficial, and illegal, methods.