UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, urged Greece on Friday to investigate multiple reports of pushbacks by Greek authorities at the country’s sea and land borders.
UNHCR Spokesperson Babar Baloch said in Geneva that there are credible allegations that Greece may have returned migrants and asylum seekers to Turkey after they had reached Greek territory or territorial waters.
“Such allegations have increased since March and reports indicate that several groups of people may have been summarily returned after reaching Greek territory,” he said.
Some 3,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece by land and sea since the beginning of March, a precipitous drop compared to previous months and especially previous years. Yet the number of reported pushbacks, particularly at sea, has been rising, according to the UNHCR.
“Greece has the legitimate right to control its borders and manage irregular migration while respecting international human rights and refugee protection standards,” Baloch said.
He added, however, that “controls and practices must guarantee the rights of asylum seekers and they should not be turned away at Greece’s borders.”
The UNHCR holds that the right to seek and enjoy asylum is fundamental and all asylum seekers should be provided with access to asylum procedures and protection from refoulement, or informal forced return.