On the 16th August at 06.26 EEST, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) was alerted to a group of Syrian and Turkish asylum seekers stranded on an islet in the Evros river close to Didymoteicho, in Greek territory. The Syrian nationals of the group stated that they were seeking asylum due to the war in their country which has placed them at risk of serious physical harm, and the Turkish nationals are from the Kurdish minority and therefore at risk of persecution in Turkey. They reported that they had been stuck on the islet since the 14th August 2022. The group includes nine women, 16 children and eight individuals who are particularly vulnerable and require medical attention. One is four months pregnant, two are asthmatic, one is diabetic and suffers from high blood pressure, another suffers from high blood pressure, two of the children are having difficulty breathing, and another child has a severe visual impairment. Weimmediatelyrelayed this information to the competent authorities: the Hellenic Police, Frontex,theOmbudsperson,theNationalHumanRightsInstitution,andUNHCR.Our operatives on the ground called the emergency 112 line at 18.23 EEST on 16th August who assured us that they were aware of the group and a search and rescue (SAR) operation was underway. The following morning, on 17th August at 09.27 EEST the group again shared their live location which showed them on the islet, stating that nobody had approached the islet the previous evening or over the night.
On the 27th July, BVMN published a briefing which detailed an update on the situation at the Evros border, specifically regarding pushbacks in the month of July. At the time of writing, one emerging case was detailed which involved a large transit group who had been stranded on an islet for over ten days, despite being granted interim measures.
The following briefing provides an update on the critical situation for the same transit group who have been stranded on an islet in the Evros river and violently pushed back and forth between Greece and Turkey over a period of three weeks. Despite the ECtHR indicating a Rule 39 measure mandating the Greek state to carry out search and rescue operations, as well as provide medical support, access to Greek territory and food and water, the group remains on the islet today in a severely deteriorating condition. Alarmingly, the transit group reported that a young 5-year-old girl died in the early hours of 9th August 2022, as well as a 9-year-old girl being in urgent need of medical care. BVMN joins the Greek Council of Refugees and Human Rights 360 to urgently call upon the Greek authorities to carry out search and rescue and provide the transit group access to their fundamental rights. The briefing further makes recommendations to the European Commission to hold Greece accountable for such violations.
Yesterday, April 29, 2022, the Greek police launched operations targeting people-on-the-move in the city of Thessaloniki. The police are targeting improvised homeless shelters and a food distribution site for vulnerable people with serious protection needs. To our knowledge, between 20:00 and 21.30 EET at least three people that are beneficiaries of Border Violence Monitoring Network member organisations in Thessaloniki were arrested on their way to collect food from a humanitarian distribution site in the city.
We, the Border Violence Monitoring Network, put forward our concerns about the potential repercussions of these operations. We have collated a body of evidence that suggests detention and illegal pushbacks are often a subsequent outcome of police operations, which entail numerous violations of international human rights provisions such as access to asylum, non-refoulement, and the prohibition on collective expulsions.
Similar operations were carried out in predominantly migrant neighbourhoods in central Athens nearly one month ago (March 2022) leading to the arbitrary arrest and detention of over 600 people-on-the-move, many of whom were previously unable to access the asylum system due to the termination of the online skype pre-registration system in November 2021.
Today, there have been reports of people-on-the-move being apprehended by police and put into the back of unmarked red vans across Thessaloniki. This is of concern in terms of a lack of transparency and of endemic police brutality in Greece, and pushbacks as a frequent outcome of such operations. Further, the use of similar unmarked red vans was mentioned in three first-hand testimonies of pushbacks in the Evros region in the last month (see below).
We reiterate that Greek authorities are obliged to act in full respect of European Union law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Immigration detention should be used as a means of last resort and should not be applied to vulnerable persons.
We urge that the Greek state should act in full compliance with the principle of non-refoulement, the European Convention of Human Rights, and other relevant human rights instruments to refer people in need of protection and vulnerable persons apprehended to the competent authorities and to ensure their rights to access asylum.
We remind the Greek state to abide by the recommendations of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances that found that people on the move who are pushed back are at risk of being subjected to enforced disappearances.
Details of these cases can be found in the full press release.
As the above information demonstrates, concerns about fundamental violations of human rights as a direct result of these operations are well-founded on the basis of previous experience. We urge independent human rights monitoring bodies to respond, to ensure that any individuals apprehended as a part of these operations have access to asylum procedures, and are not subject to police violence or treatment that would amount to torture, in line with their fundamental rights.
Thirty-four Syrian nationals have been taken to the Greek mainland after surviving for three days on a deserted islet in the Evros/Meriç border river. The European Court of Human Rights obliged Greece to provide the group with shelter, food, medical care and shelter after an urgent appeal was submitted by the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).
The European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that Croatia illegally expels people. Based on the ruling from the ECHR on the killing of a six-year old Afghan girl during a pushback from Croatia to Serbia, Croatian watchdog NGOs Are You Syrious and Centre for Peace Studies assert that the Croatian Prime Minister Plenković must dismiss the top of the Ministry of the Interior and the police. Madina Hussiny was struck and killed by a train, after being pushed back to Serbia with her family in 2017.