GENEVA - U.N. agencies are expressing alarm at persistent reports Greek authorities are rejecting asylum seekers and migrants at the country’s sea and land borders with Turkey.
The U.N. refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration say they have been receiving multiple and persistent reports that Greek authorities are sometimes violently pushing back and collectively expelling migrants and asylum seekers. The agencies are urging Greece to investigate the incidents.
The U.N. refugee agency says allegations of expulsions have increased since March. That, it notes, corresponds with a precipitous drop in arrivals from previous months and compared to the two previous years.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says Greece has a legitimate right to control its borders and manage irregular migration. However, he says the government also must respect international human rights and refugee protection standards.
“Controls and practices must guarantee the rights of asylum seekers and they should not be turned away at Greece’s borders either at sea or at land…However, the present allegations go against Greece’s international obligations and can expose people to grave dangers,” Baloch said.
Baloch says the coronavirus pandemic has deepened the plight of people fleeing war, conflict and persecution. He says it is unconscionable to deny safety and protection under those circumstances.
The U.N. refugee and U.N. migration agencies are appealing to states to suspend deportations during the pandemic. They urge governments to manage border restrictions while respecting international human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants and asylum seekers.