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Greece, Frontex accused of abusing refugees

Greek authorities violate the rights of migrants at the border with Turkey and European border control agency Frontex is an "accomplice" to the abuse, many NGOs denounce in a report published today on the occasion of the International Day of Refugees.

"Numerous testimonies confirmed the practice of collective expulsions (push-backs)" along the sea border between the two countries, according to the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Migreurop network, and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (REMDH).

International rules prohibit collective expulsions and protect the right of anyone to request asylum. However, according to the report, the Greek Coast Guard intercepts and tows boats of migrants to Turkey "sometimes violently, without recognizing their identities as refugees."

One Syrian father recounted that the Greek Coast Guard took all his belongings and then left him, his wife and their baby, adrift on the waves for 24 hours until they were rescued by the Turks.

The European agency for external border surveillance, Frontex admitted that "it has been notified through 27 reports of collective expulsions" and other abuse.

However Frontex "continued to provide logistical support to operations (ships, planes, thermal cameras, Coast Guard training, recognition of nationalities of immigrants)."

"Continuing its activities on the border, despite the fact that they knew about these proven and repeated violations, Frontex is seen as an accomplice," said a statement issued by Olivier Clochard, president of Migreurop.

The Greek-Turkish border is one of the main entry points of irregular migration in the European Union after the Italian island of Lampedusa.

After strengthening the checks at land borders and building a wall, immigrants turned to the sea. In 2013, Frontex intercepted 10,427 migrants at sea, compared with 3,307 in 2012, according to the report.

From September 2012 until May 2014, at least 18 boats sunk, 191 people were killed and 33 are considered missing. Most of the victims came from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, or Eritrea.

"If the boat had managed to reach the shores of the European Union, these persons would certainly be able to get asylum" highlight the NGOs expressing their regret at the fact that the EU favors a policy of "closing" the frontier instead of political refugee protection.