United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement on June 8 that the agency is deeply concerned by continued reports about the alleged push-backs and refoulement at the land border between Greece and Turkey.

“Such allegations of informal forced return have been recorded before, and it is of vital importance that the Greek authorities investigate them thoroughly,” said UNHCR Representative in Greece Philippe Leclerc. “If confirmed, this is extremely worrying. The right to seek and enjoy asylum is a fundamental human right.”

“UNHCR has raised this issue with the Greek authorities, calling also for preventive measures against such practices, including clear rules of process at the border, independent monitoring mechanisms, and enhanced internal control structures,” the statement read.

Murat Capan, the managing editor of the leading investigative magazine, Nokta, which was shuttered by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, is among those who were reportedly forced by a group of masked Greek men to sail back to Turkish side recently.

Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) said on June 6 that Greek police continue illegally handing over Turkish asylum seekers back to Turkey, a policy that results in “lambs to the slaughter.”

Council of Europe urges Greece to cease pushback ops

In a separate statement on June 7, Nils Muiznieks said he is also concerned about reported collective expulsions from Greece of asylum seeking Turkish nationals.

“I urge the Greek authorities to cease immediately the pushback operations and uphold their human rights obligation to ensure that all people reaching Greece can effectively seek and enjoy asylum,” he said.

“No doubt Greece has been under immense migratory pressure in recent years. …However, even in particularly challenging situations, states cannot resort to practices – such as collective expulsions – which are not in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the non-refoulement principle enshrined in the UN Refugee Convention,” he maintained.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government along with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the latter’s denials of involvement.

With 120,000 people already detained over alleged or real links to the movement, thousands of others tried to escape Turkey illegally as the government cancelled their passports. While many managed to get out of the country, hundreds of others have been caught near border on Turkish side.

Refoulement from the Greek side is only recent occurrence.