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Universal Periodic Review Submission on Greece

Date 1 November, 2021
Category UN Submission
BVMN’s stakeholder briefing for the United Nations 39th session of the Universal Periodic Review

The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) is a coalition of organisations documenting pushbacks and state violence in the Balkans, Greece and Turkey, since the formal closure of the migration route 5 years ago. In 2016, during the last Universal Periodic Review, 35 countries made recommendations to Greece regarding the protection of migrants and asylum seekers. Despite this, BVMN assert that the Greek government has failed its obligations under international law and has systematically rolled back protection granted to migrants and refugees.

We have witnessed how within Greece the use of pushbacks has both increased and intensified, and now constitutes an unofficial pillar of the country’s migration policy. Let us be clear, pushbacks substantially violate the principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition of torture and pose a significant threat to the right to life. Pushbacks occur at Greek land borders, deep from within Greek territory and at sea, where victims are left abandoned in motorless rafts.

Included in this submission:

      • Systematised pushbacks from Greece
      • Violations at the Greek-Turkish land border
      • Chain-pushbacks
      • Pushbacks of Turkish Nationals
      • Pre-removal Detention Centres in Pushbacks
      • Torture practices in detention facilities
      • Maritime pushbacks
      • Internal Violence
      • Criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders

The Border Violence Monitoring Network has documented that 98% of pushbacks testimonies from Greece contained torture or ill-treatment. Pushbacks are perpetrated with excessive violence, including forced undressing and theft of personal belongings, as well as sexual assault. In 68% of pushbacks, children have either been subjected to or witnessed this disturbing abuse. Despite the increase in violence and numbers of pushbacks, the Greek state has refused to investigate, has not held perpetrators to account, and has systematically targeted and defamed human rights organisations speaking out against these practices.

Reccomendations for the state under review
  • Greece must immediately halt pushbacks and collective expulsions of refugees and migrants.
  • Greece should take action towards improving its regulatory framework and strengthen the implementation of international human rights instruments it has ratified with regards to remedies to pushback victims that should include but not be limited to compensation, access to territory, increasing access to legal aid, and recognition of their entitlement to international protection.  
  • Greece must strengthen the role of the Ombudsman as the National Mechanism for the Investigation of Arbitrary Incidents in the prompt, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of the authorities involvement in pushbacks, collective expulsions and denying access to asylum procedures. The Office of the Ombudsman should be afforded additional competences, access, and financial and human resources to fulfill its mandate. 
  • Greece must establish an independent border monitoring mechanism involving national human rights institutions, international organizations and civil society organizations.
  • Greece should apply its legislation in line with regional and international instruments it has ratified and to limit the use of detention of migrants, asylum seekers, and stateless persons and extend the use of alternatives to administrative detention. Greece must investigate all cases of violence and torture by police and detention centre staff. Victims of torture and inhuman treatment inside detention facilities must be provided effective remedies in all cases. 
  • Greece should advance its commitments under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and make a declaration to the competence of the Committee to consider individual communications as regulated in Article 31.
  • Greece should immediately sign and ratify Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting in Article 4 the collective expulsions of aliens.



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