Council of Europe slams Greece over illegal refugee pushbacks

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The Council of Europe’s top human rights official condemned the Greek government today for its illegal pushbacks of refugees.

Commissioner for human rights Dunja Mijatovic spoke out on the eve of a Somali refugee going on trial on Lesbos for trying to save the lives of 33 refugees whose dinghy sank in the Aegean Sea.

Ms Mijatovic said there was an “overwhelming body of evidence” that Greece had engaged in illegal pushbacks, both by preventing asylum-seekers from entering the country and by forcing those who had made it into Greek waters back into Turkey.

There had been “reported instances in which migrants … have reached the eastern Aegean islands by boat, and have sometimes even been registered as asylum-seekers, [but] have been embarked on life rafts by Greek officers and pushed back to Turkish waters,” Ms Mijatovic said in a letter to the Greek authorities.

She called on Athens to “put an end to these practices and ensure that independent and effective investigations are carried out,” noting that its response so far had been to “simply dismiss the allegations.”

Greece retorted that the claims of pushbacks were “largely unsubstantiated.”

But its treatment of refugees will be in the spotlight from tomorrow as a 27-year-old father of four faces two life sentences and additional penalties of 10 years per passenger over a failed effort to get a sinking dinghy to shore last year.

“Mohamad H” was among the refugees on the boat. He took over when it began to list, trying to get it to harbour, despite having no seafaring experience. He failed, the boat capsized and two people drowned. He is now charged with people-smuggling for piloting the boat.

Source: Morning Star

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