What is said to be as many as 1,072 migrants were taken to the limits of Greece’s water territory and abandoned on inflatable rafts by Greek authorities, the New York Times reports.
What We Know:
- The Times analyzed evidence from independent watchdogs, academic researchers and the Turkish Coast Guard to determine that the asylum seekers were dropped at sea by Greek officials on at least 31 separate occasions.
- It is reported that on July 26, 22, refugees, including babies, were taken by masked Greek authorities from the detention center they were being held on the island of Rhodes. Najma al-Khatib, a 50-year-old Syrian and one of those taken, said they were left on a “rudderless, motorless life raft” after being taken away in the dark before being rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard. “I left Syria for fear of bombing — but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” she added.
- Greece increased it’s land and sea border security earlier this year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to release thousands of refugees into Europe during tensions between the country and the EU.
- The Greek’s move is a clear violation of international law, says François Crépeau, former United Nations special rapporteur who stated, “These pushbacks are totally illegal in all their aspects, in international law and in European law.” He then added that “It is a human rights and humanitarian disaster.”
- Greek officials, however, have denied any wrongdoing. “Greek authorities do not engage in clandestine activities,” said Stelios Petsas, a government spokesperson. “Greece has a proven track record when it comes to observing international law, conventions, and protocols. This includes the treatment of refugees and migrants.”
Greece’s new conservative government, elected last year and led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has taken a much harder stance against migrants and refugees.