Athens, 24 June 2022: Today, six Greek civil society organisations, members of the Informal Forced Returns Recording Mechanism established by the Greek National Commission for Human Rights in response to systematic push back allegations in the country, submitted a briefing to the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), covering systemic breaches of the rule of law and the EU acquis by Greek authorities. These stem mainly from the continuation of routine unlawful removal of people seeking international protection from the national territory, contempt of court orders and discrediting of European and international bodies responsible for monitoring and safeguarding human rights.

The briefing comes ahead of the hearing of the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum at the LIBE Committee on 27 June 2022. The Committee has made crucial, consistent efforts to ensure scrutiny of Greek push back practices and of and respect for the rule of law, fundamental rights and the EU acquis over the past two years, including through hearings, letters, and over a dozen targeted written questions tabled by Members across different parliamentary groups (EPP, S&D, Renew, Greens, Left).[1]

The briefing is signed by the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), the Greek Transgender Support Association (GTSA), HIAS Greece, HumanRights360, the Network for Children’s Rights (NCR), and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA).

[1]           Questions for written answer P-1972/2022; E-1951/2022; E-1639/2022; E-1519/2022; E-1438/2022; E-861/2022; E-259/2022; E-5571/2021; E2697/2021; E-1667/2021; E-4857/2020; E-4566/2020; E-4168/2020.

To read the briefing, press here

GCR’s Information Note

on interventions and on interim measures granted by the ECtHR in cases regarding pushbacks

Updated on the 2nd of May 2024

 

Since March 2022 the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) has represented 620 Syrian, 79 Turkish, 72 Iraqi, 32 Palestinian, 22 Afghan and one Somali refugees, including many children, before the European Court of Human Rights, by filing 60 applications for interim measures (Rule 39), requesting to be granted humanitarian assistance and access to the asylum procedure.

The Court granted the requested interim measures for all cases and ordered the Greek government not to remove the refugees from the country’s territory and, in the majority of the cases, to provide them with food, water and proper medical care. The ECtHR also requested to be informed by the Greek government, amongst others, on whether the refugees have submitted an asylum application and whether they have access to the asylum procedure and to legal assistance.

In 29 out of the 60 groups/cases the refugees complain they have been pushed back to Turkey; in 13 out of these 60 groups/cases the refugees went missing after the Court’s decision and GCR is not aware of their whereabouts; and in the rest (18) of these groups/cases the refugees have been formally arrested by the Greek authorities. It should be noted that the refugees, even from the groups that were formally arrested, complain that in the past they had been subjected to violent and informal return (pushback) to Turkey from Greece.

Furthermore, both with respect to those stranded on the islets and those in the Greek mainland, the refugees who complain that they have been pushed back to Turkey, also complain that, in the majority of cases, they were informally arrested by the Greek authorities and informally detained in an unspecified detention facility in the Evros region. In all these cases they complain that they were treated with violence, they were transferred to the Evros river bank from where they were forcibly put in boats and pushed back to Turkey.

URGENT CALL

Α group of 35 Syrian refugees, including 15 children remain stranded, on an islet in Evros river, without access to food, water and humanitarian aid, for a week now, despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights with 4 different Decision, the most recent as of 17/6/2022,  has granted interim measures and has ordered the Greek Authorities not to remove the applicants from Greece until further notice and to provide them with food, water and adequate medical care as needed (M.A. and Others v. Greece And 13 other cases; S. S. and Others v. Greece; F. R. and Others v. Greece; A. D. and Others v. Greece).

Up until today, one week after the Authorities have been initially informed about the presence of the group of refugees on the islet and five (5) days after the most recent Decision of the European Court of Human Rights, Greek Authorities have not proceeded to any rescue operation and have not complied with the Decisions of the Court, exposing the persons in an imminent risk as they remain stranded in a small islet at Evros river.

We urge the Greek State to comply with the Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, to rescue the refugees and to proceed to all relevant procedures provided by law.

The European Parliament's European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), in a letter signed by its President Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar to the European Commission, expresses its concern about "the continuing reports of dozens of people seeking international protection pushed back from Greece to Turkey through the land border area of the Evros River". The letter points out that the European Court of Human Rights has issued more than 13 judgments in recent weeks "of interim measures and, hence, instructed the Greek authorities to ensure that the concerned persons have immediate humanitarian and medical assistance and that they will fall under the reception and identification procedures provided by the law". It stresses the fact that many of these people "were stranded for days, without being rescued by the Greek authorities, in very harsh conditions on small islets in the Evros River and several among them have reported being pushed back to Turkey later on, in contempt of court ruling". It points to the escalation of the situation with reports of loss of life, inhumane behaviour, denial of access to the asylum procedure and "refoulements at the EU’s external borders with the involvement of the Greek police authorities, in stark contravention of Articles 1, 2, 14, 18 and 19 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 6 of the Asylum Procedures Directive".

 

Το Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες κατά την ετήσια Γενική Συνέλευση της Πλατφόρμας για την Διεθνή Συνεργασία για τους Μετανάστες Χωρίς Χαρτιά  PICUM (https://picum.org/). Η Γενική Συνέλευση έλαβε χώρα στις Βρυξέλλες στις 2 και 3 Ιουνίου 2022 και το ΕΣΠ εκπροσωπήθηκε από τον Λευτέρη Παπαγιαννάκη, Διευθυντή της Οργάνωσης.

Το PICUM έχει 164 μέλη από 31 χώρες, τα οποία συντονίζουν τις προσπάθειες τους ώστε να εξασφαλιστεί ο σεβασμός των δικαιωμάτων των ανθρώπων χωρίς χαρτιά.

Since three days now, 52 Syrian refugees, amongst whom families with minors with multiple health problems are stranded on an islet in Evros river. Lawyers from the Greek Council of Refugees and HumanRights360 have immediately notified all the competent Greek Authorities that they should be rescued and that all the lawful procedures concerning reception, identification and asylum should be implemented. However, there was no response from the Authorities. On Wednesday 01.06.2022, the European Court of Human Rights issued an article 39 Decision on interim measures ordering the Greek Authorities to rescue the refugees and carry out all the expected procedure. It should be noted that amongst the people now present on the islet, another ECHR decision has been issued on 25.05.2022 despite which people were reported to have been pushed back to Turkey on 27th of May. Despite the fact that the Greek Authorities were notified also for this Decision, the people are still stranded on this islet in deploring conditions, without food and water and terrified. Every minute is crucial for their life and health and for the alarming development of the non-compliance of the Greek Authorities with Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

We urge the Greek State to comply with the Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and rescue the refugees implementing all the lawful proceedings.

26/5/2022

HumanRights360 and the Greek Council for Refugees representing 94 refugees from Syria, who are stranded on an islet in Evros, submitted on Wednesday 24.05.2022 to the European Court of Human Rights an urgent request for interim measures to ensure that the people have immediate humanitarian and medical assistance and that they will fall under the reception and identification procedures provided by law.

Just a few hours later, the ECHR granted the interim measures, ordering the Greek government not to remove the 94 refugees from the Greek territory, and to offer them access to food, water and adequate medical treatment. With the same ruling, the ECHR is also asking the Greek government to provide to the Court official information on the whereabouts of the refugees, on whether the refugees have been able to submit an asylum application and if they indeed submitted one, and on whether they received legal assistance throughout this process.

The Greek government is operating “a two-tier refugee response” - one for Ukrainians and one for all other refugees according to a new briefing by the Greek Council for Refugees, Oxfam and Save the Children.

The briefing details how, in the last two months, people fleeing Ukraine who are seeking protection in Greece were given swift access to protection, health care and the labour market. The Greek government has also started providing accommodation and support to buy food, the organisations said.

In the same period, there were multiple incidents of violent “pushbacks” of asylum seekers from elsewhere - including cases of children and pregnant women who were detained and transferred by boat to islets in a river at the border. In mid-March, asylum seekers reported that a 4-year-old Syrian child tragically drowned after falling from a boat in one of these operations.

The Greek government has also set up an easy-to-use online registration process for Ukrainians seeking protection. In contrast, the registration of asylum applications in mainland Greece is almost completely dysfunctional and inaccessible for other nationalities, and Ukrainians who had arrived in Greece prior to 26 November, the report says.

The report details other instances of discrimination and differential treatment, with Ukrainians called “real refugees” and other people seeking protection labelled “illegal immigrants” by government officials. There were also reports that Afghan refugees in camps in Serres Camp in northern Greece are being forced to leave the containers in which they have been staying and move to a dilapidated part of the camp, to make space for newly arrived Ukrainians.

The research in Greece was conducted by the Greek Council for Refugees, supported by Save the Children and Oxfam. The findings and recommendations in Greece could be relevant to other European countries that are hosting people who have fled Ukraine as well as refugees from other countries.

Over the past three weeks, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) has represented the Syrian refugees, including 44 children, before the ECtHR, by filing 5 applications for interim measures (R 39), requesting for the Syrian refugees to be granted humanitarian assistance and access to the asylum procedure.

The Court granted the requested interim measures for all cases and ordered the Greek government not to remove the refugees from the country’s territory and to provide them with food, water and proper medical care. The ECtHR also requested to be informed by the Greek government, amongst others, on whether the Syrian refugees have submitted an asylum application and whether they have access to the asylum procedure and to legal assistance.

Two of these five groups of refugees have been collected by the Greek authorities, two other groups of Syrian refugees complain they have been pushed back to Turkey. The last group has been on the islet since the day before yesterday and comprises of refugees who were previously pushed back to Turkey while their request for interim measures was pending before the ECtHR, alongside a new group of 12 Syrian refugees who were granted interim measures yesterday.

The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) represented the Syrian refugees before the ECtHR, requesting humanitarian assistance and access to the asylum procedure. The ECtHR last night granted the interim measures (R 39) and ordered the Greek government not to remove the refugees from the country and to provide them with food, water and proper medical care. The ECtHR also requests information from the Greek government, including whether the Syrian refugees have submitted an asylum application and whether they have access to the asylum procedure and to legal assistance.

 

The Syrian refugees, among them 26 young children, patients and a pregnant woman, were stranded for several days on two islets in Evros, without access to water, food, medical assistance, exposed to the cold and weather conditions.

 

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