Greece’s government has allegedly been secretly abandoning more than 1,000 refugees at the edge of Europe’s borders in the past few months.
The refugees were sailed to the edge of Greek territorial waters and left to fend for themselves on inflatables and often overcrowded life rafts since March, according to reports from the New York Times.
At least 1,072 people have been said to be dropped off at sea by Greek officials throughout 31 expulsions that are illegal under international law. The Times gathered this information from infiltrating the system with academic researchers, the Turkish Coast Guard, and independent watchdog groups.
“It was very inhumane. I left Syria for fear of bombing – but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” said 50-year-old Najma al-Khatib to the newspaper after sharing her experience of being taken away with 22 others, including two babies. Masked Greek officials took them from a detention center on the island of Rhodes under the cover of the night and left them on a raft with no motor to survive out in the open sea. Thankfully, they were eventually rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.
While Greece used to rely on proxies like the Turkish and Libyan governments to help with maritime migration, the Greek government has taken matters into its own hands lately, following information from the watchdog groups and researchers. Migrants are forced into life rafts that are sometimes leaking and left to drift at the border between Turkish and Greek waters. Others are left on boats with no motors as Greek officials will disable their engines.
Nonetheless, the country has denied doing anything illegal. “Greek authorities do not engage in clandestine activities. Greece has a proven track record when it comes to observing international law, conventions, and protocols. This includes the treatment of refugees and migrants,” said Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman.
Former United Nations special rapporteur, François Crépeau, said, “these pushbacks are totally illegal in all their aspects, in international law, and in European law. It is a human rights and humanitarian disaster.”
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