New GCR report reveals violence against refugees at the Greek-Turkish borders and criminalization of legal aid organizations


Pushbacks and intimidation of human rights defenders are a systematic part of an unofficial but carefully planned migration and border policy

A new report by the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) documents extreme violence against people seeking asylum at Europe’s external border. Pushbacks of refugees to Turkey are widespread, and involve humiliation, illegal detention, intimidation, physical and sexual violence, and arbitrary confiscation of personal belongings.

Pushback cases before ECtHR and/or Greek Public Prosecutor

This report contributes to an existing body of extensive evidence of the Greek state’s illegal pushbacks practice, by providing particularly detailed descriptions of 11 pushback cases at the Evros border region and the Aegean islands, and 2 cases of pullbacks by the Turkish authorities in Evros.

Illegal detention in official and unofficial detention sites

In all cases detailed in the report, asylum seekers were arbitrarily held in official or unofficial detention sites, for periods ranging from a few hours to a full day before eventually being pushed back. In three cases, people identified their place of detention as the Neo Cheimonio Border Guard Station.

Sexual Violence

In all the reported cases, asylum seekers were subjected to strip search during their unofficial detention. In at least three cases, people reported incidents of sexual violence, ranging from humiliation to sexual assault and rape.

Pushback of two Palestinian recognized refugees

In June 2022, two Palestinians recognised by the Greek authorities as refugees and legally residing in the island of Kos were illegally apprehended in the middle of the street. They were brought to a small storage room with other people, body searched and then raped. Twelve hours later, the guards tied their legs, put them in a van and boarded them in a boat. They threw them in the sea on a half-deflated raft until the Turkish coast guard rescued them.

Criminalization of legal aid organizations

Evidence from the report also shows how human rights defenders supporting refugees, including NGOs like the Greek Council for Refugees, are increasingly intimidated and obstructed in their work by the Greek authorities. Instead of stopping these rights violations, the Greek government is targeting those who support refugees, framing them as enemies of the state and smugglers in an attempt to silence them and hinder their human rights work.

Alkistis Agrafioti Chatzigianni, Advocacy Officer at the Greek Council for Refugees, said:

“This research shows that unless the EU and Greek authorities finally put an end to these illegal border policies, they will only become more violent and widespread. The government must immediately cease all violations at its borders and allow human rights defenders to do their important work of supporting people seeking asylum.”

Kleio Nikolopoulou, Advocacy Officer at the Greek Council for Refugees, said:

“Pushbacks and border violence have become the rule rather than the exception in Greece. They are an unacceptable symptom of a broken European asylum policy and what is even more alarming is the EU standing by as these rights violations become a common trend throughout European borders. The EU needs to put in place a migration system that upholds asylum rights.”

Notes to editors

Alkistis Agrafioti Chatzigianni and Kleio Nikolopoulou are available for interview and comment.

Link to the Report.

Link to the Executive Summary.

GCR is calling for the EU and European countries to work together to create an asylum system that works. We want the EU to:

  • Take disciplinary action and launch infringement proceedings against the Greek state for well-documented, long-term, and systematic breaches of international and EU law in its treatment of asylum seekers, including during the conduct of pushback operations.
  • Increase transparency and scrutiny over the Greek authorities’ use of EU funds for migration management purposes, to ensure that EU funds are not being misused to fund operations that endanger migrants and refugees or violate EU law.
  • Stop striking up dubious migration deals with non-EU countries to outsource the EU’s responsibility for people seeking safety.
  • Recognize the shrinking civic space in Greece and the dangerous trend of criminalization of HRDs at EU’s external borders.


We call the Greek Government and the Greek judicial authorities to:


  • Stop the illegal pushback operations and not remove asylum seekers and recognized refugees from Greek territory.
  • Initiate criminal investigations bringing to justice those accountable for the criminal offences committed against the asylum seekers during the pushback operations.
  • Ensure that human rights defenders and civil society organizations can operate without undue interference and legal representatives of asylum seekers can provide legal assistance without hindrance.


Contact information

GCR Communications Officer I Kostas Vlachopoulos: Αυτή η διεύθυνση ηλεκτρονικού ταχυδρομείου προστατεύεται από τους αυτοματισμούς αποστολέων ανεπιθύμητων μηνυμάτων. Χρειάζεται να ενεργοποιήσετε τη JavaScript για να μπορέσετε να τη δείτε.


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