Greek police pressed to answer migrant pushback claims

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — An independent investigation in Greece says authorities have failed to adequately respond to multiple allegations of summary deportations of migrants at the Greek-Turkish border.

In a report released Thursday, the Greek Ombudsman called on the government to respond to detailed allegations of so-called pushbacks that deny migrants their right to apply for international protection.

The 2017-2020 investigation concerns activities along the 190-kilometer (120-mile) land border between Greece and Turkey, most of which is formed by the Evros River.

The Ombudsman said it didn’t have the resources to investigate the claims directly, but said a consistent pattern of accounts had emerged from testimonies mostly made to international and local human rights groups.

“Most complaints of illegal pushbacks indicate a standard practice,” the report said, citing the accounts it had received.

“They are intercepted by the police and have their mobile phones and identification documents removed. Then the foreign nationals are handed over to unidentified men usually in blue uniforms” who hold them in detention for several hours.

“Some hours later, other unidentified men, this time wearing black uniforms, take them to the Greek bank of Evros river. They are forced to get on board dinghies and they are taken to the Turkish bank.”

Greek authorities didn’t immediately respond to the report but have repeatedly denied claims that security forces are involved in summary deportations.

Asylum claims in Greece were suspended for one month last year during a border standoff after Turkey said it would no longer turn back migrants seeking travel to the European Union. The suspension wasn’t renewed.

Greece is one of the busiest entry points for illegal migration into the European Union, with frequent crossings in the Evros region and to Greek islands near Turkey’s coast.

In March, an inquiry into claims that the European Union’s border protection agency Frontex was involved in illegally pushing back migrants found no proof of its involvement, but a full investigation into all of the claims wasn’t possible. ___ Follow Derek Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos

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Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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