Greek pushbacks: case of refugee woman before the European Court of Human Rights

28.05.24

Athens, 28 May 2024: On 4 June 2024, lawyers of the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) will represent a refugee woman from Turkey, a victim of a pushback operation by the Greek authorities, at an oral hearing before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of A.E. v. Greece.

This is the first case to be examined by the ECtHR in relation to a complaint of pushback in the Evros region by the Greek authorities.

The applicant, a young woman from Türkiye, was forced to leave her country for reasons of political persecution. She entered Greece in 2019, via the Evros region, seeking international protection. However, despite her request, the applicant complains that she was never given the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece.

Instead, as per her complaint, after her arrival and after first being informally arrested and informally detained for some hours in police stations in the Evros region, she was transferred alongside other third country nationals to the Evros river. There, she was deprived of her personal belongings, such as shoes, mobile phone and money, and forced to board an inflatable boat, which was used to push her back to Türkiye.

After being pushed back to Türkiye, she was arrested by the Turkish authorities and imprisoned on the basis of her previous criminal conviction on charges of being a member of an illegal organisation in Türkiye.

The applicant complains before the ECtHR that the actions of the Greek authorities violated her rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, namely, inter alia, the right to life, the prohibition of torture and the right to an effective remedy. The application is being joined with the case of G.R.J. v. Greece, an unaccompanied minor who alleges that he was abducted from a reception centre in Samos, Greece, where he sought asylum and was pushed back to Türkiye by the Greek authorities.

The applicant had previously filed a criminal complaint against all those responsible, which was dismissed at the second instance as well by the Prosecutor of the Thrace Appeals Court on the ground that there was no evidence against the police and that Greece, in particular the Greek police, never conducts pushback operations back to Türkiye.

We note that in recent years numerous reports have been issued by international, European and national organisations, which document a gradual and steady consolidation of the characteristics of pushback operations.[i] As the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants has stated: "In Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become de facto general policy."[ii]

GCR intervenes daily with the Greek authorities and also represents before the European Court of Human Rights a significant number of victims in pushback cases. In particular, since January 2022, GCR has sent at least 553 interventions to the Greek authorities for the cases of more than 3826 refugees, including many children, from Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, who entered Greece from the Evros region seeking international protection. At the same time, since March 2022, the GCR has represented before the ECtHR, hundreds of refugees from Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, Palestine, etc., by filing 60 applications for interim measures (R39), requesting not to be removed from the country and to be granted access to the asylum procedure. The Court has granted the requested interim measures in all cases. Some of the refugees in these cases have been formally arrested by the Greek authorities, but most of them complain that they were pushed back to Turkey while the ECtHR judgment was pending or even after its delivery.[iii] 

Notes to editors:

  • Journalists wishing to attend the public hearing need to first contact the ECHR Press Unit at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information please see here.
  • All the Court’s public hearings are filmed and a webcast placed on the Court’s Internet site.
  • For all additional information on the case and for interview requests, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Interview requests with A.E. need to be sent separately and are subject to the applicant’s consent.

[i] UNHCR, ‘UNHCR warns of increasing violence and human rights violations at European borders’,

21 February 2022, available at: https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/2/62137a284/news-commentunhcr-warns-increasing-violence-human-rights-violations-european.html

IOM, ‘IOM Alarmed over Reports of Pushbacks from Greece at EU Border with Turkey’, 11 June

2020, available at: https://www.iom.int/news/iom-alarmed-over-reports-pushbacks-greece-eu-borderturkey

CED, Concluding observations on the report submitted by Greece, CED/C/GRC/CO/1, 12 April 2022, paras 28-31, available at: https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3987990

CRC, ‘Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Ask Greece about Roma Children and

Push Backs of Refugees at the Border’, 4 May 2022, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/pressreleases/2022/05/experts-committee-rights-child-ask-greece-about-roma-children-and-push-backs

UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Greece,

A/HRC/49/5, 6 January 2022, paras 130.96, 130.202, 130.204, 130.209, 130.214, 130.215, 130.216,

130.223, 130.226, https://documents-ddsny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G22/002/15/PDF/G2200215.pdf?OpenElement

WGAD, Report of visit to Greece, A/HRC/45/16/Add.1, 29/07/20, paras 87-88, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/country-reports/ahrc4516add1-visit-greece-report-working-group-arbitrary-detention  

UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, https://documents-ddsny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G22/328/57/PDF/G2232857.pdf?OpenElement

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights defenders, ‘Statement on preliminary observations and

recommendations following official visit to Greece’, 22 June 2022, https://srdefenders.org/statement-onpreliminary-observations-and-recommendations-following-official-visit-to-greece/

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Greek authorities should investigate allegations

of pushbacks and ill-treatment of migrants, ensure an enabling environment for NGOs and improve

reception conditions’, 12 May 2021, https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/greek-authoritiesshould-investigate-allegations-of-pushbacks-and-ill-treatment-of-migrants-ensure-an-enablingenvironment-for-ngos-and-improve-recept

‘Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee calls on Greece to reform its immigration detention

system and stop pushbacks’, 19 November 2020, https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/-/council-of-europe-santi-torture-committee-calls-on-greece-to-reform-its-immigration-detention-system-and-stoppushbacks

[ii] UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, para 32, https://documents.un.org/doc/undoc/gen/g22/328/57/pdf/g2232857.pdf?token=rAWPwIZptAwtMYJ9cl&fe=true

[iii] GCR’s Information Note on interventions and on interim measures granted by the ECtHR in cases regarding pushbacks, Updated on 2/5/2024 https://www.gcr.gr/el/news/press-releases-announcements/item/1984-information-note

 GCR’s report “AT EUROPE’S BORDERS: BETWEEN IMPUNITY AND CRIMINALIZATION”  https://www.gcr.gr/media/k2/attachments/GCR_Pushback_Criminalization_Report.pdf

 

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