Human Rights Groups Call on Greece to Investigate Migrant Pushbacks

Migrants and refugees are moved to a new camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. Credit: Greek Government

Twenty-nine human rights and humanitarian aid organizations called on the Greek Parliament on Tuesday to establish an inquiry into all allegations of unlawful returns of migrants to Turkey by law enforcement officers and other authorities.

In an open letter, the groups allege that these returns are carried out mainly through pushbacks and collective expulsions and are often accompanied by violence.

The Parliamentary inquiry should examine whether any illegal acts identified are part of a de facto government policy at odds with international, European, and Greek law, the groups say.

They allege that reports from 2020 recorded multiple incidents in which Greek Coast Guard personnel, sometimes accompanied by armed masked men in dark clothing, unlawfully abandoned migrants – including those who had reached Greek territory.

They abandoned the migrants at sea, on inflatable vessels without motors; towed migrant boats to Turkish waters; or intercepted, attacked, and disabled boats carrying migrants, the groups charge.

“Despite government denials, over the years many witnesses and victims have told us about pushbacks from land and sea that put migrants’ lives at risk,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Parliament should step up now and do all it can to put an end to this life-threatening practice.”

The open letter is signed be the following 29 groups:

Human Rights Watch

ActionAid Hellas

Amnesty International

ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth

Danish Refugee Council

Equal Rights Beyond Borders

Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid

Greek Council for Refugees

Greek Forum of Refugees

Greek Helsinki Monitor

Hellenic League for Human Rights

Help Refugees

HIAS Greece


International Rescue Committee



Legal Centre Lesvos

Lesvos Solidarity

Medecins Du Monde – Greece

Mobile Info Team

Network for Children’s Rights


Refugee Legal Support

Refugee Rights Europe

Refugees International

Refugee Support Aegean


Terre des hommes Hellas