The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is deeply concerned about persistent reports of pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, in some cases violent, at the European Union (EU) border between Greece and Turkey. International media reports and footage showing the use of marine rescue equipment to expel migrants across the Eastern Aegean Sea are especially disturbing.
IOM, together with partners, are closely monitoring the situation and have received reports of migrants being arbitrarily arrested in Greece and pushed back to Turkey and violence perpetrated against migrants by some border personnel.
The Organization calls on Greek authorities to investigate these allegations and testimonies given by people forced to cross the Greece-Turkey border.
Amid heightened health considerations, we urge States to refrain from securitizing borders and implementing migration practices that could compromise the human rights of migrants, including measures such as the construction of border walls, militarizing border patrols or increasing deportations.
IOM also appeals to States to suspend deportations during the COVID-19 pandemic while facilitating voluntary returns when and where possible, particularly for those migrants who, considering the situation, would feel safer back home and express their wish to return.
At all times, priority should be given to ensuring protection-sensitive border management aligned with international law, which respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants regardless of their migratory status including the right to seek asylum.
While states’ sovereign rights – including maintaining the integrity of borders – must be respected, their discretion ends where they overlap with international human rights obligations.