Council of Europe calls on Greece to "stop pushbacks"

Council of Europe calls on Greece to "stop pushbacks"
Council of Europe calls on Greece to "stop pushbacks"
*Image Credit: Eurokinissi

A report released by the Council of Europe on Thursday, "urges the Greek authorities to change their approach towards immigration detention and to ensure that migrants deprived of their liberty are treated both with dignity and humanity."

The report was prepared by the Council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (better known as CPT).

The committee visited Greece from March 13-17, 2020. It is recalled during this period, Turkey attempted to asymmetrically invade Greece with the use of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Turkey had not only falsely told the illegal immigrants that Greece’s borders were open, but it also facilitated the transportation of the illegal immigrants and utilized their army to try and tear down Greece’s border wall. This damage is currently being repaired.

The report says that “the CPT acknowledges the significant challenges faced by the Greek authorities in dealing with large numbers of migrants entering the country,” and that migration “requires a coordinated European approach” but added that “this cannot absolve the Greek State from their human rights obligations.”

"The CPT has over the years been extremely critical of the way in which the Greek authorities treat migrants who enter the territory in an irregular manner. It has advocated that any immigration detention facilities established are not punitive and meet basic minimum standards. Regrettably, despite repeated recommendations by the Committee, the approach of the Greek authorities has not evolved substantially," it continued.

The report “also raises concerns over acts by the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants from reaching any Greek island and it questions the role and engagement of FRONTEX in such operations.”

The committee's position is that all entering migrants should be given the opportunity to apply for asylum and that Greece should be ready to cope for any number of arriving migrants: “Greek authorities must make provision for the possibility to cope with sudden peaks in the influx of migrants by establishing facilities which can be brought into service at very short notice and which offer basic minimum conditions of detention for short periods."

Greek authorities responded to the report.They do acknowledge that some facilities are obsolete or in need of maintenance and say instructions on improvement have been given.

“With regard to the situation in public areas and detention rooms, they are cleaned daily from Monday to Friday by a fixed-term cleaning crew and following the Committee’s observations, recommendations were made for more thorough cleaning of the premises,” they continued.

Regarding pushbacks, the report notes that the police “state that the alleged practice of pushbacks to the border is unsubstantiated and completely wrong.”

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe is an international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states, with a population of approximately 820 million.