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UN urges Greece to investigate migrant pushback claims

Men attempt to take cover from Greek border guards in March 2020 [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 June, 2020

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The UN refugee agency has called on Greece to begin urgent inquiries into multiple reports of illegal tactics being used to push back asylum seekers on its borders.
The UN refugee agency on Friday urged Greece to investigate "multiple" reports of illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers by its forces at its sea and land borders, which it said had increased since March.

Greece has repeatedly denied using illegal tactics to guard its borders, and has in turn accused Turkey of sending patrol boats to escort migrant boats into its waters.

But the UNHCR said it had "continuously addressed its concerns with the Greek government and has called for urgent inquiries into a series of alleged incidents reported in media, many of which (are) corroborated by non-governmental organisations and direct testimonies".

"Such allegations have increased since March and reports indicate that several groups of people may have been summarily returned after reaching Greek territory," it added in a statement. 

There was no immediate response by the relevant Greek authorities.

UNHCR said that although around 3,000 asylum-seekers arrived in Greece by land and sea since the start or March, the figure was much lower than over previous months.

The number of reported pushbacks had been rising, particularly at sea, it said.

"The Hellenic Coast Guard has shown exceptional dedication and courage to save countless refugee and migrant lives at sea. However, the present allegations go against Greece’s international obligations and can expose people to grave danger," the agency said.

The Turkish coastguard says it has rescued "hundreds" of migrants and asylum-seekers" this year in the Aegean, allegedly forced by Greece into Turkish territorial waters.

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