Amnesty says Greece risking human lives, violating EU, int’l law by blocking migrants

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Migrants and refugees scuffle with riot police on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, on March 3, 2020, amid a migration surge from neighboring Turkey after it opened its borders to thousands of refugees trying to reach Europe. (AFP Photo)

Amnesty International on Tuesday said Greece was putting human lives at risk by its measures to block the entry of irregular migrants. Greece announced on Monday that it is temporarily suspending asylum applications.

“This measure will be coupled with the immediate return without registration of new arrivals if the return to their country of origin is deemed ‘possible’. It’s not clear how the Greek authorities are interpreting ‘possible’ in this context,” said the statement.

The rights group voiced concern over the announcement that Greece will hold military drills using live ammunition amid a fresh migration wave at its border after Turkey opened its gates to Europe for migrants. “Thousands of people have reportedly arrived at the various Turkey-Greece border points. Since last Thursday, clashes have been reported between Greek police and people at the land border, with police using excessive force and indiscriminately firing tear gas into crowds to stop them crossing into Greece,” it added.

Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions, said: “The reckless measures being taken by the Greek authorities are a blatant breach of EU and international law and will put lives at risk. People seeking asylum are once again being used as bargaining chips in a callous political game. Greece must refrain from using excessive force and ensure search-and-rescue operations can operate at sea. People who are seeking asylum in Greece should be helped, not treated as criminals or a security threat.”

She urged the European Commission to urgently coordinate any support that might be required to Greece and Bulgaria – the two gateways to Europe.

So far, over 130,000 irregular migrants have crossed to Europe after Turkey opened its borders, accusing the EU of not fulfilling the promises it made. The Greek reaction to irregular migrants and asylum seekers has been brutal, with many battered, tear-gassed and at least two killed.