Until 2009 Greece was repeatedly breaking human rights law with illegal deportations. The principle of non-refoulement was severely threatened by the Greek practice of push-backs of sans-papiers through the land border to Turkey in the prefecture of Evros and from the islands in the Aegean (Samos, Chios, Mytilini a.o.).
The truth may be bitter but it must be told (Pro Asyl 2007)
Stuck in a Revolving Door Iraqis and Other Asylum Seekers and Migrants at the Greece/Turkey Entrance to the European Union (HRW 2008)
Out the Back Door: The Dublin II Regulation and illegal deportations from Greece (NOAS & AITIMA 2009)
The year 2010 has seen a major change in the Greek policy of migration and a kind of “legal turn” in terms of forms of removals. While it seems as if the push-backs to Turkey have stopped, there was an increase of readmissions to Turkey and deportations from Athens back to the countries of origin. Frontex is cooperating with joint flights for the deportations of Nigerians, Georgians and other nationalities from Athens international airport. Anyway, readmissions or deportations might have a legal frame as opposed to the earlier push backs but they are in many cases not respecting the rights of refugees as in the case of an Iranian asylum seeker who was illegally returned to Turkey although he was in the procedure of seeking asylum while in detention in Tyhero border station.
PR Greek Refugee Council on illegal Readmission (2011)
The Citizen Protection Minister Papoutsis proclaimed 2011 as the year of massive deportations and voluntary returns. While the reform of the asylum law has led only to improves in the asylum procedure (mainly in the appeals committees with a rise in recognition rates) there have been no improves in the legal guarantees of refugees arriving on Greek territory. Wrong screening (age and nationality) in the detention facilities of Evros lead to illegal readmissions and deportations that are covered by the fact that there are no means for refugees to question the screening procedure, to have access to legal support in detention or even to basic information about their rights, the reason of detention, the period, the danger of deportation etc.
Due to the total lack of a functioning asylum, welfare and integration system providing basic needs to asylum seekers and refugees in Greece more and more of them decide to leave the country “voluntarily”. The policy of fear and the militarisation of the urban centres and the ports of entry and exit discourage in the most brutal ways the hundreds of thousands of sans-papiers, aslyum seekers, refugees and migrants stuck in Greece.
Readmissions from the land border in Evros continue and as it seems the government wants to start also direct readmissions from the Aegean islands to the turkish coast since the increase in arrivals from the sea border.
Deportations continue and are one of the primary focuses of the governments repressive migration policy.
At the same time we hear again more and more stories about push-backs on the land border while it is yet to be assured if these illegal deportations also occur again on the sea border.