A New York Times investigation showed that Syrians, after arriving in Greek reception centers, are abandoned in the open sea or on deserted islands. An illegal modus operandi, which has become systematic with the coronavirus.

The conservative Greek premier, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has based his mandate on a particularly harsh migration policy, based mainly on greater border controls and refoulements of illegal immigrants. An investigation signed by the New York Times reveals new details on the modus operandi of the Greek authorities: from March until today, 31 secret operations have been conducted which have led to the expulsion of 1072 asylum seekers in a completely irregular manner, in contravention of the rules of the international law.

(Photo: Ayhan Mehmet / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The reconstruction of the newspaper is based on the testimonies of some survivors, operators of the Turkish Coast Guard and independent organisations and university researchers, and shows a scenario of absolute gravity. Once the migrants reach Greece, they are detained for weeks in precarious and crowded reception centres and then made to embark on makeshift vehicles with which to reach the external border of the Greek waters. At that point they are left adrift: I mean just  abandoned in the open sea , waiting for them to be rescued, at best, by the Turkish Coast Guard. Still others are transported to an uninhabited island of Turkish territorial jurisdiction, Ciplak.

After the publication of the article, the Athens government rejected all the accusations , relying on the words of the spokesman Stelios Petsas, a spokesman for the government, who explained that “Greece has a solid precedent regarding compliance with international standards, conventions and protocols. This also includes the treatment of refugees and migrants ” .

Greece’s background

Not only the solid testimony gathered by the Times reporters  – Najma al-Khatib, one of the survivors , declared that she would have preferred to die under bombs in Syria rather than be abandoned at sea – but also numerous news stories show that the migration policy of the Greece is not really based on hospitality at all. In March,  the crisis between Athens and Ankara left thousands of refugees, fleeing the war in Syria, poised on the border between the two countries. With the worsening of the coronavirus emergency, as reported by the American newspaper, pushbacks and expulsions have been increasingly frequent, systematically preventing migrants from doing regular request for asylum , as required by the rules of international law.

According to Niamh Keady-Tabbal, a researcher for the Irish Center for Human Rights, “Greek authorities are using rescue equipment to illegally expel asylum seekers into a new and more violent push-back model used in the Aegean islands” . Furthermore,  according to Human Rights Watch  , the Greek authorities, on several occasions, have gathered the migrants who legally live in Greece and have secretly deported them.transporting them to the vicinity of the Evros River which divides mainland Greece from Turkey. All circumstances that show the failure of the agreements between the two countries, also financially supported by the European Union, signed to contain the flight of migrants from Syria. Arriving in Europe, for many of them, is much worse than living under bombs.