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Greek police force asylum seekers to repel fellow migrants to Türkiye, probe finds

Greek police force asylum seekers to repel fellow migrants to Türkiye, probe finds
Lighthouse Reports-led joint investigation reveals substantial details concerning Greek authorities in what amounts to modern-day slavery

By Cindi Cook

PARIS (AA) - A joint investigation headed by a Dutch investigative news organization found that Greek police were forcing asylum seekers to repel their fellow migrants back across the border to Türkiye, risking their own asylum, or possible “disappearance” in the process.

The report issued this week after conducting investigations over many months by Lighthouse Reports with contributions by Le Monde, Der Spiegel, ARD Report Munchen, and The Guardian, gives concrete details about the Greek authorities in what amounts to modern-day slavery.

Refugees and asylum seekers – masked or wearing balaclavas and under the close supervision of armed officers – are used as operatives to force back other asylum seekers over the Evros River, one of the main crossing points from Türkiye into Greece.

The six men involved – of Syrian and Moroccan origin – offered stories of brutality, beatings, threats, and theft of their belongings. They also tell of being locked up while in the service of their captors, with violence as the modus operandi for asylum seekers used as pawns by the police to constantly drive away and return by boat their brothers seeking safe haven.

Despite the damning revelations, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has consistently denied reports of any wrongdoing, claiming that his immigration policy is “firm but fair.” Police forces in the country back him up.

The starting point in this enslavement? Forced recruitment or being lured in by some of their own, smugglers were lorded over by a gang master. At the head of the operations is a Syrian man who goes by the name of “Mike” and who lives in a container on the base of a Greek police station.

The men recently put forth their accounts as well to a Facebook group called the Consolidated Rescue Group, which had asked those involved to speak out about their experience.

The problem has multiplied drastically over the past two-and-a-half years after Türkiye in March 2020 opened the borders for asylum seekers into Europe.

Not only are these “slaves” used at the banks of the Evros to push back those attempting to cross, but asylum seekers who have already made it over are detained in centers there. Those forced to do the police’s work are driven by truck from the detention centers, where they then ferry migrants on the shoreline over in rubber boats while the police look on.

The men forced into this “work” are given papers issued by the police permitting them to stay in Greece for 25 days. They are, however, held against their will in three different police stations in the region, close enough to the Evros to be able to carry out their daily duties.

One of the men, “Bassel,” whose name has been changed for security reasons, spent three months in the servitude of “Mike,” who worked directly with the Greek police. Bassel was housed in barracks in the Greek municipality of Tychero, where he was brutally forced each day to assault, rob, and even strip asylum seekers of their personal effects. The police told Bassel that he could then take whatever he wanted from his captors' belongings.

The container where “Mike” and the six men make their home is located in the parking lot of the police station in Neo Cheimonio, in the Evros region. The civil protection minister there, Takis Theodorikakos, told Le Monde earlier this month that there is increasing pressure with the daily flow of migrants.

“Every day, we prevent the illegal entry of 900 people,” he said.

Aside from the papers that the police have given him to legally stay in Greece – a mere seducement, it seems – Bassel tells of the choice given by his captors: either perform the assigned duties ferrying migrants back to the Turkish side of the Evros or face prison time after being charged with human smuggling.

In exchange for his work, Bassel was also promised a travel permit that would enable him to go beyond Greece and into Western Europe.

Initially, three of the men who gave their stories to Le Monde claimed that a Turkish smuggler charged them €5,000 ($5,200) each and promised them that they would be met by a Syrian man on the other side who would be accompanied by the Greek police.

Those who live in nearby villages of the Evros region also tell Le Monde and Lighthouse that it is well-known there that the captured asylum seekers carry out the assault and transport work that the police hand down.​​​​​​​

source: News Feed
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