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Greek government abandoned asylum seekers at sea breaking international law

Asylum seekers on a boat off the coast of Greece in 2015.

The Greek government secretly abandoned at least 1,072 asylum seekers in inflatable rafts at the edge of Greek territorial waters, according to a report by The New York Times. Some migrants reported being left in leaky or over-capacity lifeboats with no motors before being picked up by the Turkish Coast Guard.

There were at least 31 expulsions of this type, which are illegal under international law. The Greek government has denied taking part in any illegal activity. 

Niamh Keady-Tabbal, a researcher at the Irish Center for Human Rights, said “Greek authorities are now weaponizing rescue equipment to illegally expel asylum seekers in a new, violent and highly visible pattern of pushbacks spanning several Aegean Islands.”

Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, said, “Greece has a proven track record when it comes to observing international law, conventions and protocols. This includes the treatment of refugees and migrants.”

Last year, Greece elected a conservative government under which protections of migrants have suffered. The pandemic has also led to increased expulsion of asylum seekers, as the Greek government has forbidden appeals of expulsions.

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