The deployment of European border guard forces at the Greek-Turkish border increases the danger of readmitting refugees to Turkey and from there to their country of origin, where they are put at risk of facing human rights violations. The European Union should meet its obligations and ensure refugees’ protection and well-being.
Greece requested the European Union to send armed so called Frontex Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs) to the Greek-Turkish border. This became public on Monday the 25th of October 2010.
Greek government statistics state that irregular migration has been increasing in the Evros-Region where the land broder to Turkey stretches over 12 km. According to the Greek Minister of Citizens’ Protection Christos Papoutsis only during the first October weekend of this year 1,400 refugees have been intercepted in that region.
More than 3,000 interceptions took place between January and September. This is an increase of 300% compared to last years numbers. Most refugees fled from war-torn regions in Afghanistan.
This stage of escalation driven by the Greek government as well as the European Union raises deep concerns on the situation of the refugees. Over the past few weeks the situation of refugees in Greece have been harshly criticized as unbearable over and over again. UNHCR declared it a humanitarian crisis. Pro Asyl says, protection-seeking persons are either refouled right at the border or immediately arrested and detained in overcrowded detention centres under catastrophic conditions. There are numerous reports of violent attacks by the police against detained refugees. Access to an asylum procedure is nonexistent.
Most concerning is the fact that these serious human rights violations are taking place in the presence and direct participation of the European border agency Frontex. Within the framework of the so called Operation Poseidon the agency is being active in the Aegean for several years. In the beginning of 2010 the agency declared the operation to be the biggest in its history. After some research most of the officers assigned to this operation where transferred to the Evros-Region. Located directly in the detentions centres they carry out identification procedures. First of October this year the agency opened a Regional office at the Port of Piraeus in Athens.
The deployment of RABITs raises many questions. In a statement Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs expresses concerns about the humanitarian situation in Greece, however she assumes the problem will be solved by an European intervention in terms of border control.
The problem is not to be located in an inadequate surveillance of the border, but in the reception conditions of refugees in Greece. These conditions have to be fundamentally improved as soon as possible. Fulfilling key international obligations Greece has to offer every refugee the possibility of claiming asylum right after crossing the border. Currently this possibility is not given. A readmission to Turkey contradicts the principle of non-refoulement as laid down in the Geneva Convention.
During the swarming noborder actions in September this year Welcome to Europe network found out that refugees readmitted to Turkey are in danger of chain deportations to their country of origin.
Taking a concrete step towards solidarity not only with the member states, but also with the refugees, the European Union has to immediately halt all deportations to Greece under the Dublin II Regulation.