Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan today confronted the Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum over the mounting evidence of Greek Government complicity in pushbacks of migrants in the Aegean Sea.
Senator Gavan was speaking at a meeting of the Committee for Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons which took place within the Hellenic Parliament in Athens.
Senator Gavan went on to chair the meeting, which belongs to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – Europe’s Human Rights body tasked with upholding Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law throughout Europe.
Minister Notis Mitarachi gave an address to the Committee in which he defended current Greek government policy on migration and denied any wrongdoing, despite 513 separate cases being lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.
In response, Senator Gavan cited the numerous Human Rights Non-Government Organisations (NGO’s) that have spoken out on the issue of pushbacks-where migrants seeking asylum have been forced back out of Greek waters by members of the Greek coastguard and security services, often at great and sometimes fatal risk to their lives.
Senator Gavan said:
“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migrants, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and UN Special Rapporteurs have all highlighted the issue of pushbacks in the Aegean Sea and other Greek territorial waters.
“You are losing credibility when you suggest that every one of these organisations is wrong and that there are no pushbacks taking place. You need to acknowledge the problem and tell us what you are going to do to tackle it.
“I would also like to highlight the case of Irishman Sean Binder, a Human Rights Defender, who has been charged by Greek authorities with counts of espionage, forgery and ‘unlawful use of radio frequencies’ for his life saving work with migrants off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos.”
Raising his case, which has been postponed a number of times, Senator Gavan reminded all present that Human Rights Watch has likened these charges to “putting life-saving on trial”.