Geneva, Switzerland – Greece must take immediate action to end the violence against migrants and asylum seekers at the Turkey-Greece border and enhance their protection, a UN human rights expert said today.

“I am very concerned about the reported pushbacks of asylum seekers and migrants, which constitutes a violation of the prohibition of collective expulsions and the principle of non-refoulement,” said Felipe González Morales, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

The UN expert expressed alarm at the reports of assaults and violence against asylum seekers by Greek security officers and unidentified armed men aiming to push them back to the Turkish side of the border.

Migrants who managed to cross the border were allegedly intercepted by Greek border guards, detained, stripped, confiscated of belongings and pushed back to Turkey. This alleged excessive use of force seems to have led to deaths and injuries, including the death of a Syrian asylum seeker.

González Morales also raised concerns about the increase in hostility and violence against humanitarian workers, human rights defenders and journalists working at the border area and in the Greek Aegean Sea. “Greece has the responsibility to ensure that migrants and those assisting them are protected from threats and attacks. The authorities should condemn promptly and ensure accountability for any such acts.”

Greece decided on 1 March 2020 to suspend access to asylum application for 30 days for individuals who have crossed the border irregularly. These individuals would be returned to the country they arrived from or to their country or origin without registration or individual assessment.

“Greece should immediately reverse its decision on the suspension of asylum application which has no legal basis in international human rights law. The right to individual assessment is the cornerstone of human rights and refugee protection. It cannot be put on hold,” said the UN expert.

“Returning people without due process will inevitably result in cases of refoulement to situations where they may face the risk of death, torture, ill-treatment, persecution or other irreparable harm.”

The Special Rapporteur has contacted the Government of Greece about his concerns regarding the situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the Turkey-Greece border. Relevant institutions of the European Union and the Government of Turkey were also notified.