In the first three months of 2021, we have already counted 55 pushbacks cases in the Aegean. 1,479 people tried to cross the sea to Greece and were illegally and in many cases brutally rejected. At the same time, 820 people arrived on the Aegean islands.
In comparison, according to UNHCR, around 7,500 people arrived on the Greek islands in the first three months of 2020 . In the following months, the number of people arriving in the Aegean dropped rapidly and has been at a constantly low level since April last year. The reason for this is the systematic pushback practice in the Aegean that has been observed for about a year now. Protection seekers are thus continuously denied arrival in Europe and access to an asylum procedure.
Also, this year, most of the pushbacks so far have taken place near Lesvos. Others were conducted off Samos, Chios, Kos, Simi and Rhodes. Pushbacks do not only violate international law, they are a deeply humiliating, violent and deadly practice of migration defence.
- This year alone, at least 12 people are considered missing or have died due to an illegal pushback .
- In two cases, migrants were taken from Chios into Turkish waters and thrown in the sea without a rubber boat or life raft .
- There are 20 cases in which 551 people on the move were pushed back and left in a life raft at sea. This was also the case on March 14, when 158 people were pushed back at once near Samos and left in six life rafts .
- We know of five pushbacks in which people were taken out to sea again after arriving on one of the islands. On February 12, such a case even occurred from the Megala Therma quarantine camp on Lesvos .
Even though the pushback cases we know of have decreased somewhat in January, it is clear that the Greek government continues its strategy of illegally rejecting migrants without regards for their physical integrity and human rights.
The European authorities have known for months or even years about the severe human rights imbalance at the EU's external borders and in particular the situation at the border between Greece and Turkey. The years of inaction clearly show that the inhumane pushback practice is deliberate and can only be understood as a common strategy of the EU. European migration policy is shamelessly cruel and tramples on the fundamental rights of people on the move.