The National Human Rights Commission of Greece (NHRC), an independent advisory body to the Greek State on matters pertaining to human rights protection, raised serious concerns on Tuesday about the return of refugees to their home countries.
Over what it called the “repeated and informal refoulement of people possibly qualifying for international protection at the Evros area”, the group charges that Greece has returned people seeking asylum to their nations of origin, according to a report from the state-run news agency AMNA.
The legal term refoulement is defined as the returning of asylum seekers to their nations of origin, where they may be persecuted for their race, religion, ethnicity, or political opinion.
The 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey to stop the flow of refugees to the Greek islands has drastically reduced the number of refugees and migrants arriving on the islands. However, any smugglers are now getting around that rule by taking advantage of the Greek — EU land border with Turkey in the district of Evros, in Western Thrace.
The refugee numbers have risen steadily since then, with many cases reported where refugees and migrants are smuggled from Evros, using the city of Thessaloniki as an intermediate stop.
In a statement adopted by the NCHR plenary during its last meeting, it was noted that the authorities must perform a “timely and thorough” investigation into these allegations and, if they are found true, to bring to justice the person or persons responsible for the refoulements.
The Human Rights Commission also calls on the Greek government to ensure that all those entering the country irregularly are given the chance to exercise their right to present their case adequately This may include a request for international protection or a report for inhuman or degrading treatment in their country of origin, or in a country of transit.