Greece: Protest march to call for immediate end to push-backs of refugees and migrants
(Lesvos, 19 July 2013) Today, more than 60 human rights activists from 20 countries will demand that the Greek authorities immediately end push-backs of refugees and migrants who try to cross the Greek-Turkish border.
“What’s happening along the Greek border does not only shame Greece. It shames the European Union as a whole,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
Activists will march in Mitilene, the capital of Lesvos, one of the main arrival points for those crossing the Aegean, and will invite local residents to join them. The march will call on the EU to support Greece in improving reception services for refugees and migrants and to find new ways of sharing the responsibility for their protection. It will also pay homage to the residents of Lesvos who have been supporting refugees and migrants arriving on the island.
Push-backs are operations where groups of migrants are turned back across the border, and denied the right to have their individual cases heard or to challenge their expulsion.
In the last year Greece has tightened the control of its borders and built a 10.5 km fence along a section of the Greek-Turkish land border. As a result, people who try to enter the EU through Greece are forced to take increasingly dangerous routes, and the practices used by the Greek coastguard and police have led to grave human rights violations.
Since August 2012 more than 100 people, including women and children, have drowned trying to reach Greece.
Amnesty International maintains that refugees fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan should be received and assisted by Greece and the rest of the EU member states, instead of being unlawfully pushed back to uncertain fates.
The march sees the return of Amnesty activists to Europe’s southern borders, after a public action on the Italian island of Lampedusa last year. Activists from all over Europe and beyond are back to send a deafening SOS to Europe, calling for the protection of refugees’ and migrants’ rights.
Today’s action, part of Amnesty International's When you don't exist campaign, follows the release of a new report, Frontier Europe: human rights abuses on Greece’s border with Turkey, in which the organisation unveiled testimonies of push-backs and ill-treatment suffered by migrants who tried to enter the EU through Greece.
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