A New York Times (NYT) investigation claims that Greece has abandoned migrants at sea in the latest scathing report by a major news organization regarding migrant pushbacks.
The footage, taken by an Austrian activist on Lesvos last month, was brought to light by the NYT, which published the material on Friday, after being “verified and corroborated” by the US outlet.
The paper reported that 12 refugees, including infants and children, had taken a boat from Turkey to the isle of Lesvos in Greece, where they hoped to receive asylum.
The group told the Times that once they arrived in Greece on April 11, masked men ripped off their hijabs, took all their belongings, including cash and cell phones, and locked them in a van for hours.
They said that they were then taken out to sea on a speed boat and transferred to a Greek Coast Guard vessel.
The Times reported that six individuals wearing dark blue uniforms escorted the group onto the Coast Guard vessel.
From there, the Coast Guard boat took the refugees to the edge of Greece’s territorial waters and abandoned the group on a small inflatable raft that floated into Turkish territorial waters.
The group was eventually rescued by Turkish authorities and are now in a Turkish detention center while they wait to find out if they’ll be granted asylum. The chances of asylum are very slim in Turkey, the Times reported.
“We didn’t expect to survive on that day,” Naima Hassan Aden, a 27-year-old from Somalia, told the Times. “When they were putting us on the inflatable raft, they did so without any mercy.”
Greece has denied past accusations of migrant pushbacks
“For years, activists and journalists have dug into claims that the Greek authorities are illegally pushing migrants out of Greece’s borders, but hard evidence has been fragmentary,” the paper said in a statement.
“The Greek government has consistently denied the mistreatment of migrants. The video may be the most damning evidence yet of its violations of international laws and EU rules governing how asylum seekers must be treated,” it added.
Greece, which is going to the polls on Sunday, has not responded to the allegations. The Greek government has consistently denied the practice, known as pushbacks.
It is illegal under domestic, EU, and international law to deny migrants seeking asylum at the border. Despite this, numerous organizations have assembled proof that expulsions are a regular occurrence.
A large number of European media outlets, including Spiegel, Lighthouse Reports, and the French daily Libération have claimed that special units of the Hellenic Coast Guard were involved in turning migrants around at sea.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has called on Greece to stop pushing back migrants who are attempting to seek asylum in the country.
Greek politicians denied the accusations that such pushbacks were taking place, saying that the UNHCR has been misled by Turkish propaganda.
Last year, an investigation by Greece’s national transparency watchdog found no basis for reports of migrant pushbacks by Greek authorities.
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