Numberless Pushbacks

Although there are now numerous reports of pushbacks and border violence in the Aegean, it is still very difficult to obtain concrete data. Gathering information on human rights violations, including pushbacks specifically, is a particularly difficult task in an extremely militarised border area like the Aegean. The responsible actors, be it the Hellenic Coast Guard or Frontex, do everything they can to cover up their own human rights crimes and block access to monitoring.

Our figures are compiled from various sources. In addition to our own observations, these include information from organisations such as Aegean Boat Report, Alarmphone and Josoor. We also consider data from the Turkish Coast Guard, but with the caveat that this data has not been verified and should be regarded differently than that of NGOs, as there is always a possibility of its political instrumentalization by the Turkish government. This risk of political impartiality and potentially misrepresentative data from the Turkish Coast Guard is one of many reasons why we try to find several sources for every individual case reported and compare the information, in order to cross-verify their details and produce the most accurate report possible.

Over the last year, the Turkish Coast Guard has published its own database containing information about all of the pushbacks that they recorded. At the same time, the documentation of pushbacks and border violence by independent activists and organisations in Greece has been made significantly more difficult by repression by Greek authorities.

Due to these various documentation challenges, the facts and figures that we present and analyse in this report do not claim to be complete. However, there are important reasons why we use this data anyway, despite the inability to capture the entire situation comprehensively. The number of recorded pushbacks has increased towards the end of 2021, but on average they do not differ much from last year's figures, and this consistency indicates that the figures measured this year are reasonable estimates. In addition, the details we have captured, such as the descriptions of the Hellenic Coast Guard’s practices, tend to coincide with reports from other independent organisations. Similar descriptions appear with consistency across myriad testimonies, given by various unrelated individuals to various independent organisations, suggesting that the details described are reasonably authentic and reliable, as these individual accounts together illustrate common patterns and routines.

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