On the occasion of the World Refugee Day 2022 we are publishing our new Report: Human Rights Violations on the Greek-Turkish Border & Testimonies of Push Back Victims.
This report has been prepared to draw attention to the human rights violations that are occurring on the Turkish-Greek border, with a special focus on Turkish asylum seekers, who are trying to take refuge in European countries, fleeing from the AKP Government of the Republic of Turkey, which has recently become increasingly authoritarian. Turkey is gradually moving away from contemporary and institutional democratic values1,2 and is increasingly turning into a kleptocratic authoritarian country that is ruled by the oppression and unlawful practices of the AKP government. Treatment of dissident groups, especially that against members of the Gülen movement, Alevis and Kurds, has become intolerable. According to statistical data, since 2015, 2 million citizens have been investigated on the grounds of their membership of a terrorist organization. Furthermore, nearly 125,000 public officials have been dismissed from their duties, and 4,500 judges and prosecutors were summarily dismissed after the coup attempt in 20163. Executive control and political influence over the judiciary in Turkey has led to courts systematically accepting bogus indictments, detaining and convicting, without compelling evidence of criminal activity, individuals and groups that the Erdoğan government regards as political opponents4. This concern is also mentioned in the European Commission’s Turkey 2021 Report, in its country evaluation, under the section “Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights”5 . Furthermore, the United Nations (“UN”) Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has underlined the following: “The Working Group expresses grave concern about the pattern established by all these [FETO related] cases […] may constitute crimes against humanity”. It is worth emphasizing here that, under its decision, the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention not only found those measures to be illegal, but also considered them to be a “crime against humanity”6. Since they are not allowed to receive treatment, many prisoners have to try to survive, under difficult conditions, in prisons, and they cannot access adequate health services. People who belong to groups that are considered to be in opposition to the AKP Government under President Erdoğan are found guilty of completely legal acts, such as subscribing to certain newspapers and/ or magazines, being members of certain unions, associations, and foundations, making donations to specific social institutions, or even merely due to the schools that they attended. Opposition members living in Turkey, who find it hard to survive in these harsh conditions, are trying to seek political asylum in European countries by crossing to Greece via the Aegean Sea or the River Maritsa. These people are not economic refugees, but political refugees, who are seen as being enemies by Erdogan’s government. Although international human rights documents grant legal protection to persons with political refugee status, and although Greece, like all other European democracies, has ratified these agreements and included them in its domestic legal code, we are witnessing more frequent push back incidents on the Greek – Turkish border, such actions thus ending with the imprisonment of most Turkish asylum seekers, who are being pushed back into Turkish territory and into the hands of the Turkish security forces. As a result of this, they are being sentenced to prison in Turkey after they are caught. This report has been prepared in order to draw attention to the situations of those political refugees who are fleeing from Turkey, which is happening alongside the problem that Greece has been facing caused by economic migrants from the Middle East who are seeking asylum in EU countries. The current point that has been reached in the migrant crisis has been documented with the testimonies of the victims of these events and their close relatives, and the resulting texts speak of Greece’s concern to protect its borders, the legal situation and the guarantees made by international human rights documents and conventions for political refugees, the severe human rights violations that are experienced by Turkish political refugees, and the push-back experiences of those same asylum seekers who have tried to take refuge in Greece. Chapter 1: Executive Summary & Methodology 2 While there have been Turkish citizens who have drowned and lost their lives7 during these push-back events, there have even been people who, although they were citizens of European countries or had the legal right to reside in European countries8, were still pushed back into Turkey in violation of UN and European human rights accords. These include victims who are citizens of EU countries, such as Germany or France, who were not allowed to leave Turkey by legal means, and who, as a result, crossed the Turkish-Greek border by clandestine means in order to take refuge in Greece, and who were then pushed back into Turkey At the end of this report, we have tried to propose a humane migrant crisis management process by including suggestions that fall within the framework of the guarantees that have been brought by international law and universal human rights documents. This report has been prepared jointly by nongovernmental human rights organizations that are located in the European Union countries and in the United States of America.
The events and narratives in this report have been prepared by interviewing victims who have experienced push-back from Greece into Turkey. Information about the identities of those people who are involved in the events that are mentioned in the report are kept confidential, and in the case that there is any international investigation or research, the identity and contact information relating to these victims will be shared with the relevant authorities. Some of the victims were able to evade capture by the Turkish security forces upon their forced return, but the majority of those Turkish citizens who have been pushed back over the border have been detained by Turkish security forces, and have eventually been arrested and incarceratedby the courts. The majority of these victims are still imprisoned. Based on letters that these victims have written from prison, or the letters and documents that they have sent to their relatives, all the events have been turned into written documents. A certain number of victims, after being pushed back during their first border crossing attempt, were finally successful as a result of their 2nd or 3rd attempts to cross the border did not have the consequence of their being caught and pushed back. Part of the narrative in this report is based on the testimonies of those people who were able to reach European countries without being caught by the Turkish and Greek security forces, and who have achieved residency status in Europe as a result of family reunification decisions. During the preparation of the report, the testimonies of those lawyers in Greece who represented political refugees from Turkey were also consulted. Above all, we would like to thank Rana Özcelik form the European Justice Initiative, who helped us in conducting the interviews. This report was written by Lawyers, Political Scientists and Journalists in both Europe and the United States. Dr. Mustafa Yasar Demircioglu HRD e.V. Law Commission
The Report in German Language: