Revealed: Greek police coerce asylum seekers into pushing fellow migrants back to Turkey

1 month ago 72

In a militarised borderline zone, successful the dormant of night, asylum seekers accidental they person been coerced into violent, amerciable pushback operations tally by Greek police.

Kept locked up betwixt operations, the asylum seekers assertion they were forcibly recruited oregon lured determination by a Syrian antheral surviving successful a instrumentality successful the gait of a Greek constabulary station, and past utilized arsenic boatmen to ferry different migrants backmost to Turkey.

Six migrants, Syrian and Moroccan, person told however they participated successful pushback operations connected the Evros stream nether duress, successful instrumentality for a constabulary enactment permitting them a month’s enactment successful Greece. Two of the men described themselves arsenic “slaves”. They said they witnessed Greek constabulary strip, rob and battle asylum seekers earlier they were enactment backmost into overcrowded inflatable boats that the men were past ordered to transport backmost crossed the heavy and fast-running stream to the Turkish bank.

Silhouette of a man
One of the migrants, who confirmed their relation successful pushing migrants backmost implicit the border. Photograph: Lighthouse Report/Handout

A associated probe by the Guardian, Lighthouse Reports, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and ARD Report München has obtained ocular grounds to corroborate the men’s testimony, and documents confirming their detention and aboriginal merchandise by Greek authorities. The men were among those who responded to the Facebook radical Consolidated Rescue group, which had asked radical to talk retired connected the practice.

Reports of pushbacks person multiplied since March 2020 erstwhile thousands of people, galore herded determination by Turkish authorities, arrived astatine Greek borders aft Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced helium had opened “the gate” into Europe. Greek authorities and its premier minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, person constantly rejected allegations, insisting that Greece has a “firm but fair” migration policy.

But section radical successful borderline villages talked openly of the asylum seekers, usually masked, who “work” for police, and 2 elder Greek officers confirmed the signifier of utilizing third-country nationals arsenic proxies successful pushbacks.

The men themselves alleged systematic coercion. Bassel*, a Syrian, said helium spent 3 months successful a constabulary compartment astatine Tychero, adjacent the Greece-Turkey border, pushing others back.

Bassel had crossed the Evros into Greece, hoping to assertion asylum. His radical was met by Greek constabulary who helium says bushed them with batons and drove them to Tychero constabulary station. There they were ordered to portion and crammed into overcrowded cells.

After being identified arsenic an English speaker, Bassel said helium was pulled retired and offered a deal: helium would enactment for the constabulary oregon beryllium charged with quality smuggling and spell to prison. In instrumentality for a licence to stay successful Greece for 1 month, helium would stay locked up during the time and released astatine nighttime to propulsion backmost different asylum seekers.

Bassel* said helium was told the “work” would beryllium unpaid but helium could instrumentality his prime of the migrants’ belongings. Two others told the aforesaid communicative of recruitment and of the beatings that ensued if thing went incorrect during an operation.

“This enactment is precise dangerous, besides due to the fact that of the enmity betwixt the Greeks and the Turks,” Bassel said. Police sources speaking to the probe confirmed that it is to debar confrontations with Turkish information forces that proxies similar Bassel are used.

Three Syrians held astatine different constabulary station, Neo Cheimonio, told a akin story. All had paid up to €5,000 (£4,300) to an Istanbul middleman to transverse into Greece via a smuggler, who said determination would beryllium a Syrian waiting for them with Greek police. They were horrified to realise they were expected to enactment migrant boats backmost to Turkey successful speech for their ain crossing.

A seated antheral   successful  faded subject   fatigues with what looks similar  a handgun by his broadside  and his eyes covered to support   his individuality
A inactive representation taken from a video of ‘Mike’, a Syrian migrant said to assistance constabulary astatine Neo Cheimonio. Photograph: Handout

One of them, Farhad, said they were regularly threatened by a Syrian calling himself “Mike”, who worked astatine Neo Cheimonio, assisting constabulary successful amerciable pushbacks and recruiting and coordinating asylum seekers.

Farhad said helium initially refused to enactment but was told by “Mike” helium risked not conscionable losing his wealth but “vanishing” if helium returned to Istanbul.

“Mike”, who lived successful the constabulary presumption grounds, would hunt apprehended asylum seekers connected the stream slope earlier they were sent back. He was peculiarly keen connected golden jewellery, and became convulsive if radical did not manus implicit valuables.

Well-built and with a tattoo of a Spartan helmet, “Mike”, was identified by the men arsenic good arsenic by a section shopowner, who had seen him with police. The probe has besides seen photographs of him astatine the station. “Mike” is said to enactment with his brother, a convicted slayer wanted for kidnapping and connected aggregate smuggling charges.

Bassel was released and has present near Greece, but is traumatised by his clip kept successful a compartment and brought out, masked, to enactment groups of desperate, often half-naked asylum seekers backmost to Turkey.

“I telephone this signifier the signifier of slavery,” helium said.

The Guardian contacted Tychero and Neo Cheimonio constabulary stations, the curate for national extortion and the president of the borderline guards of Evros aggregate times but had nary effect by the clip of publication.

*Names person been changed to support identities