In a letter addressed to the Minister of Civil Protection, the Minister of Migration and Asylum and the Minister of Transport and Island Policy of Greece, made public today, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, urges the Greek authorities to end repatriation operations at land and sea borders with Turkey and ensure that independent and effective investigations are conducted into all allegations of backwardness and ill-treatment by members of the security forces in the context of such operations.
These practices, which have been widely reported and documented for several years, prevent persons returning to the border without identification or individual procedure to present reasons why such a return would violate their rights and apply for protection. “In such cases, member states cannot satisfy themselves that they are not sending individuals back in violation, for example, of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the prohibition of renewal in the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,” he said. Commissioner. “Furthermore, the manner in which these operations are reported to be carried out would be clearly incompatible with Greece ‘s human rights obligations,” she added.
Noting the role that civil society organizations play in reporting and documenting backlogs, the Commissioner expresses concern about the reported efforts to discredit the work of NGOs protecting the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and the difficult registration procedures that endanger not only the weakening of these organizations, but also affecting the thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who often depend on their work to secure fundamental rights on a daily basis. It calls on the Greek authorities to actively establish and maintain an enabling legal framework and a political and public environment conducive to the existence and functioning of civil society organizations.
With special reference to reception conditions, the Commissioner emphasizes that action to improve living conditions under extended living standards in Reception and Identification Centers should not be delayed and that all appropriate standards must be met, and overcrowding prevented. With the new reception facilities reportedly set to operate as closed centers, the Commissioner is concerned that this will lead to the deprivation of large-scale and long-term freedom. It urges the Greek authorities to review the closed nature of these centers, in order to ensure that the regime applicable to these facilities protects the freedom of movement of their inhabitants, in accordance with the relevant standards of the Council of Europe.
Finally, the Commissioner reiterates that the policy of detaining refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the Aegean islands lies at the heart of many of the ancient problems that Greece has experienced in protecting the rights of these persons. “I very much hope that the new reception centers do not stand in the way of an active review of this policy,” she concludes.
“In contrast to these allegations, we must emphasize in particular the unwavering humanitarian commitment by the Greek authorities that has resulted in the saving of thousands of migrant lives since 2015. This is a fact that cannot be argued or ignored and it became possible only thanks to the continuous efforts of the Greek personnel, supported by FRONTEX and operating very often in a particularly complex and unstable operational environment “, the three Greek Ministers respond to the letter of the European Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović.
“The actions taken by the Greek authorities, at our maritime borders, are being carried out in full compliance with the international obligations of the country as provided in UNCLOS, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and International
Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue but also in accordance with EU legislation, including Regulation 656/2014 ”written in the reply letter.
Finally, the three Greek ministers recall that the contribution of the Turkish authorities in the sudden and organized attempt of thousands of people to enter Greek and European territory in early 2020 proves with proven evidence and that this asymmetric threat to Greece and the EU was taken successfully by the Greek authorities.