Hundreds demonstrate against Greece’s migrant pushbacks


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Hundreds of people protested against Greece’s illegal pushback of migrants and refugees after Greek border units’ policy led to the death of 19 migrants, who froze to death last week.

According to Greek police, around 700 people marched from Omonia Square at the center of Athens to Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament.

They carried a life raft resembling the ones allegedly used by Greek authorities to push back asylum-seekers from Greek territory, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer said.

Protesters, who gathered after a call of leftist and anti-racist groups, shouted slogans against “the assassination of migrants at the border” and held banners reading “Stop pushbacks and border violence.”

In Syntagma Square they observed a minute of silence for the migrants who lost their lives.

Last week, Turkey said it found 19 frozen bodies close to the Greek border, accusing Greece of allowing the migrants to die in the winter cold after stripping them of their clothes and forcing them back across the border.

Human rights groups believe such actions, reported by migrants in different parts of the world, are designed to discourage fleeing people from trying to enter a particular country and to look for a different route.

Recent years have seen multiple reports of Greek forces illegally pushing back boats of asylum-seekers, endangering the passengers in the process.

Turkey and international human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum-seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.

Turkey’s five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean in a bid to reach Northern and Western Europe in search of a better life. Hundreds of people have died at sea as a number of boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.

Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.

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