Greek border guards send Turkish asylum seekers back home to be arrested

A group of Turkish asylum seekers over the weekend were pushed back to Turkey by Greek border guards and arrested upon arrival, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Twelve people were sent back to Turkey from the islands of Chios and Samos, among which were four former civil servants and eight former military officers. The pushback victims were all arrested and sent to prisons in western Aydin and Izmir provinces.

Ümran D., the wife of a former police officer who was also pushed back to Turkey, said her husband had served nine months for alleged links to the Gülen movement. Her husband, identified only by the initials S.D., was sentenced to five years. six months in prison and was released pending a decision from the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

S.D. decided to leave Turkey for a safer life for himself and his family.

“My husband’s lawyer called early Monday morning and said he had been able to reach the Greek island but was sent back on a boat shortly thereafter,” said Ümran D. “I was then told he had been arrested.”

According to a previous Amnesty International report, Greek border forces violently and illegally detained groups of refugees before summarily returning them to Turkey.

The practice of migrant pushbacks in Greece has become so bad that even people who have applied for asylum and have been in the country for some time are being picked up and deported, the rights group said.

According to the report pushbacks are not only taking place in border areas. People are also being apprehended and detained far into the Greek mainland before being transported to the Evros region to be illegally returned to Turkey.

In an interview with the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) Turkish asylum seekers said they were sent back to Turkey via the Evros River by Greek authorities. They said all their belongings, including their mobile phones, were taken from them and they were made to board a small rubber boat. According to the victims, some asylum seekers had been brutally beaten by authorities before they were sent back to Turkey.

Ayşe Erdoğan, a young woman who was sent back to Turkey on May 4, 2019, said Greek officers notified the Turkish gendarmerie about the pushback. Gendarmes were waiting for them at the Turkish border when they arrived, and Erdoğan was arrested upon arrival.

Turkish asylum seekers said Greek authorities need to be aware that by sending them to Turkey, they are sending them back to prison.

An investigation by the European Parliament found that the European Union’s border and coast guard agency Frontex has failed to protect the rights of people at EU borders by not taking action to address reports of migrant pushbacks.

Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, earlier called for EU member states to take a stand against pushbacks at borders and clearly oppose attempts to legalize this illegal practice.

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