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Greece rejects UN pushback claims

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Greece on Monday rejected a UN report claiming that its border forces had illegally repelled thousands of asylum seekers over the past two years, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The report … is not based on primary research but reproduces older findings by the [UN refugee agency], foreign media reports and the recommendations of nongovernmental organizations,” a Greek migration ministry source said.

The ministry source added that such claims are “already under investigation as to their validity” but insisted that past checks had so far “never confirmed illegal actions [by Greece] while guarding its borders.”

“The Greek coastguard and Greek police on a daily basis save people whose lives are at risk at sea and land borders,” the source added.

The UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, had earlier shared the report saying that “in Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become de facto general policy.”

“UNHCR has recorded almost 540 separate incidents during the period 2020–2021, 40 involving at least 17,000 people who were reportedly returned by force, informally, to Turkey,” said the report, which will be formally presented on June 23.

“The Special Rapporteur concludes that pushbacks remain the de facto general policy in many states and continue to seriously impede the enjoyment of the human rights of migrants who cross international borders,” the report said.

Greece routinely denies that its border forces engage in illegal pushbacks, despite repeated claims to the contrary by rights groups and asylum seekers.

Rights groups have also repeatedly accused EU border agency Frontex of illegally returning migrants across EU borders.

The Greek government last week declined to comment on the resignation of Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri in April amid an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office, reportedly into alleged mismanagement.

“[Greece] has nothing to observe,” government spokesman Yannis Economou said Thursday.


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