In 2021 Lighthouse Reports conducted a joint investigation with the networks Der Spiegel, SRF, Rundschau, ARD Monitor, ARD Studio Wien, Libération, RTL Croatia, Novosti and The Pointer on the criminal practices used by the Greek, Croatian and Romanian authorities in attempt to prevent refugees and immigrants from entering their territory. Since then, Al Jazeera Arabic, through one of its most experienced investigative journalists, Tamer Al-Misshal, has launched a thorough investigation into Greece and the background of the pushbacks of those illegally entering Greek territory. The result was presented last week on the network’s TV.
The documentary presents testimonies of refugees who were forced to participate in the past in such operations and others who were abused and pushed back to Türkiye under dire circumstances.
The conclusions to be drawn from the documentary are the following:
1. The operation of ill-treatment of those entering Greek territory is organised by the Greek state.
2. The Greek security arrests and detains in prisons those refugees/immigrants who speak the English language and agree to implement the practices it imposes on them.
3. Security forces force refugee mercenaries to cooperate with them by threatening them with 25 years in prison as smugglers or deportation to Türkiye. In return, they are freed to go wherever they want. It is typical that they are kept in prisons so that they cannot have contact with the outside world, usually without food for days.
4. Those who are not useful to the Greek security are beaten and sent back to Türkiye, leaving them a few meters before the Turkish bank of the river, in the water, after they have been stripped and their belongings stolen. They expel them even if they are caught 10-15 km inside Greek territory. This job is undertaken by mercenary refugees.
5. The treatment of people by the mercenaries is the same regardless of nationality and religion, whether they are Syrians, Palestinians, Afghans, Christians, or Muslims.
6. The mercenaries wear full face masks and have clear orders not to reveal their identity to anyone and to throw anyone who disobeys into the water. They are themselves responsible for their personal safety. If anything happens to them or the Turks capture them, the Greeks do not know them.
7. The shadow army numbers a few hundred members and is deployed along the Greek-Turkish border from Evros to the islands.
The Al Jazeera journalist also interviewed Notis Mitarachi, the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum (rightly referred to as the Greek Minister of Pushbacks), presenting him with evidence of the existence of the shadow army and the abuse of people. Among other things, he said:
1. The road is very dangerous, and it is reasonable that some people die.
2. The source of the photos and videos is in most cases Türkiye.
3. Turkey must do more to protect its borders.
4. He lies on camera saying that when he requested information on the above from the Lighthouse Report, he received nothing. The documentary presents the correspondence between the organization and the ministry, which includes photos and videos.
5. In general, he declared complete ignorance of the above and at some points he tried to make the journalist appear crazy, while he bypassed most of the questions and did not answer them directly, accusing Türkiye of being responsible.
On the other hand, the Turkish Minister of Interior, Süleyman Soylu, with whom the journalist also met, quoted detailed data that prove the flows of refugees/immigrants to Greece and how many of them were blocked by the Turkish authorities. So, in 2021, for example, Türkiye stopped 87% of those who tried to cross the border with Greece. That is, if the arrivals in 2021 in Greece were approximately 10,000 (UNHCR data), this means that the Turks stopped around 70,000 people.
The documentary features Greek journalists who describe how the Greek government monitors their phones (such as Stavros Malihoudis who made a report about a drawing of a 12-year-old imprisoned (!) child from Syria and was therefore considered dangerous for national security!) and has raised cases against them because they reveal what is happening on the Greek-Turkish border. Also, the man who recruits the shadow army mercenaries is mentioned by name.
“They are beaten, stripped, robbed, and left to die of the cold”Media Reports
The descriptions of people’s torture and hardships shock even the most dispassionate. They are beaten, stripped, robbed, and left to die of the cold. Last February, 32 people died in this way in Evros. A total of 158 people have died from the cold in the last two years. They throw people into the sea with their hands tied so they can’t swim and consequently drown. If someone actually meets the conditions to be recruited and refuses, he is severely beaten and sent back to Türkiye.
no one is questioning what is happening, neither from “liberal, democratic and humanitarian” Europe nor from international organizationsEva J. KOULOURIOTIS
These practices are theoretically used to discourage other refugees/immigrants from attempting to come to Greece. Why are they still implementing them since 2019 when they have not achieved their goal? People keep coming. The only explanation is that they find satisfaction in torturing and murdering them. No one is questioning what is happening, neither from “liberal, democratic and humanitarian” Europe nor from international organizations. Everything is done with their blessings, so the more dead the better.
If one million people come to the border tomorrow, what will happen? I’m sure the order will be: Shoot themEva J. KOULOURIOTIS
Of course, now it is easy to do this because the flows are very low given that Türkiye massively blocks the people. If one million people come to the border tomorrow, what will happen? I’m sure the order will be: Shoot them.
It is more than obvious that the current Greek government fully accepts these practices trampling on every concept of humanity and law, targeting the nationalist votes. The Greek media outlets, on the other hand, hide the reality and present the government as the protector of the Greek and European borders from the “invaders”. As if these people have no reason to seek better living conditions, and as if they have no right to hope and survival. It is certain that some Greeks also think that their government is doing a good job on immigration. Only a small minority belonging to the left denounces them, but they do not have the slightest influence.
as long as the international system supports dictators who imprison, torture, murder and rob their people, the flow of refugees and immigrants will not stopEva J. KOULOURIOTIS
The situation on the Greek-Turkish border is not going to change unless the reasons that create it change. So as long as the international system supports dictators who imprison, torture, murder and rob their people, the flow of refugees and immigrants will not stop. What can be stopped is the abuse of power and the violation of human rights by an apparently democratic country that even wants to be called the cradle of democracy.