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Amnesty accuses Greece of 'systematic' policy of migrant pushbacks

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By Euronews with AP
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, a migrant stands outside a refugee camp after a fire on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, Greece.
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, a migrant stands outside a refugee camp after a fire on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, Greece.   -   Copyright  Michael Svarnias/AP
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Human rights group Amnesty International accused Greece on Wednesday of systematic pushbacks of refugees and migrants to Turkey, which is illegal under EU and international refugee law.

“Our research shows that violent pushbacks have become the de facto Greek border control policy in the Evros region," said Adriana Tidona, Migration researcher for Europe at Amnesty International.

"The level of organization needed to execute these returns, which affected around 1,000 people in the incidents we documented, some numerous times and sometimes via unofficial detention sites, shows just how far Greece is going to illegally return people and cover it up,” said the Amnesty researcher.

According to the NGO, the practice has become so bad that even people who have applied for asylum and been in the country for some time are being summarily picked up and deported.

Amnesty said the practice also took place in the mainland, with migrants "apprehended and detained up to 700km away from the border."

The report comes ahead of an EU leaders' summit in Brussels on Thursday with migration topping the agenda.

"We really need to acknowledge the fact that Greek borders are also European borders. Human rights violations in Greece really concern us all," Tidona told Euronews in a televised interview.

"As Europeans, we need stronger mechanisms for accountability. And this includes the participation of European member states to Frontex, the European coast guards agency, which we invite in our report to reconsider its presence in Greece, precisely because of the persistent allegations of Human Rights violation," Tidona said.

Charity groups and media outlets routinely accuse Greek authorities and the EU’s border agency Frontex of denying people their right to apply for asylum, often in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and the Greek islands.

Greece and Frontex strenuously deny conducting such pushbacks.

Amnesty called on the European Commission to launch infringement proceedings against Greece “for its violation of EU asylum and fundamental rights law.”

It appealed to the Turkish authorities to “halt all practices forcing or pressuring individuals to return to Greece, including through the use of threats or violence and conduct prompt, independent, impartial, and effective investigations into all such allegations.”