Rory O'Keeffe, Koraki
Greek pushbacks ‘a stain on humanity’ – End Pushbacks Now
A release from End Pushbacks Now
Pushbacks carried out by the Greek government against people seeking asylum are a stain on Greece, on Europe, and against humanity. Every person on the planet deserves, and should expect, better.
In December 2021, the Greek government sent its uniformed and armed officers – workers for the police force and coastguard, primarily – to carry out 57 pushbacks, in which 1,331 men, women and children were illegally forced off the Aegean Islands and out of Greek territorial waters.
In the same period, just 465 people were registered as new arrivals on the Aegean Islands, meaning the government pushed back 74.1 per cent – nearly three in every four – of the people who arrived in Greece to seek safe places to live, learn and work.
In 2021 as a whole, the government pushed back at least – and in fact it is increasingly clear that the true number may be far, far higher – 15,803 people.
Just 3,567 men, women and children were registered as new arrivals in the Aegean Island camps, meaning the government pushed back 81.6 per cent – more than four in every five – of the people who arrived in Greece.
It is the absolute legal right of any person to travel to any state, with or without paperwork, to apply for asylum. It is absolutely illegal for any government to prevent them, or to force them out of the country once they have entered, without giving their application for asylum due consideration.
More than that, to attack the human rights of one person – a Somali teen, an Afghan grandmother, whoever they may be – is to directly attack and remove the rights of every human being: your grandmother, your teenage son or daughter. Your friends, your family, you.
As soon as a government claims it gets to choose whether to follow the law, and whether to uphold human rights for all, they cease to be universal rights: this is a wild power-grab by a government, to claim it, rather than the world, gets to choose who gets rights and who does not.
Today, the people who suffer might be Syrian men, women and children. But make no mistake, tomorrow, it could be you. Your children. Everyone, in fact, you love and care about.
More than that, the government is not only stripping innocent men, women and children – including you – of their human rights. They are also literally stripping the people they illegally push back of their clothes, their possessions, their money, before beating them and forcing them back across the sea in engineless craft, not knowing whether they will survive: people have died as a result of this. More people will die.
And, more even than that, in the week before Christmas, 61 men, women and children drowned in Greek waters as a result of this despicable, illegal activity: their bodies are still washing up on the shores of Greek islands and the mainland as we write this (11 January 2022).
Because the Greek government has worked to block all 'safe' routes, and to beat, rob from and then deliberately risk the deaths of people exercising their right to travel to seek asylum, those people are now attempting to take far more dangerous, far longer routes to seek safety elsewhere. All four of the boats which sank between 21-24 December 2021 were heading to Italy, to avoid the brutality and barbarism of the Greek government.
It is unacceptable. It is a stain not only on the good name of Greece (and its people, who deserve much better from their government) or Europe (exactly the same) but on the world. On the human race: we will, and should, be judged – should the human race last long enough – for placing imaginary lines between imaginary communities called 'countries' ahead of the lives of our fellow people. For literally letting people die, and in many cases actually killing them, in the name of 'borders'.
And you can do something. Visit us at https://www.koraki.org/end-pushbacks to find out more.
*All pushback figures from Aegean Boat Report. All registration figures from Greece's Ministry of Migration.