“Chaos and Outrage Erupts as Video Reveals Greek Government’s Alleged ‘Pushback’ of Desperate Asylum Seekers”

On a fateful day in April 11, 2023, a group of 12 asylum seekers, including children and a six-month-old baby, were unlawfully expelled by Hellenic coast guard officers from Lesbos, where they had sought refuge from their war-torn nations of Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. A shocking documentation of this egregious violation of international laws and EU rules governing the treatment of asylum seekers was released by the New York Times on Friday, May 19, 2023 – only barely 48 hours before polls open in Greece.

The video footage, taken by an Austrian activist on Lesbos, shows the refugees being driven in an unmarked white van to a remote spot on the Aegean island before being forced into a high-speed inflatable boat by men, whose facial features are concealed by balaclavas. The dinghy then transfers them to a Hellenic coast guard vessel, which proceeds to abandon them on a raft in the middle of the Aegean Sea. There, they were left adrift before being picked up by the Turkish coast guard. A daunting ordeal, indeed!

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This illegal “pushback” of the asylum seekers is a damning evidence of Greece’s violation of international laws and EU rules in its migration policies. The incident, which took place on land inside EU territory that the refugees had safely reached, is in clear violation of the 1951 Geneva convention that outlines the legal protection of refugees, of which Greece, like all EU member states, is a signatory.

The Mitsotakis government, which is seeking a second term in office, has consistently denied the mistreatment of migrants, even though activists and journalists have dug into claims that the Greek authorities are illegally pushing migrants out of Greece’s borders for years. The government accepts its migration policy is “tough” but insists it is “fair,” hailing the drop in migrant flows and arrival of asylum seekers as a major success of its four-year tenure.

The impending elections in Greece have made the video release even more poignant, as the pre-electoral campaign enters its last day. The Greek public has, by and large, welcomed the ruling party’s tough stance on migration. It remains to be seen to what extent the government’s standing will be affected by the release of this damning video footage.

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