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Greek Government Under Fire After BBC Alleges Coastguard Misconduct


Migrants at Greek Camp (File)
Migrants at Greek Camp (File)

By: ATN News


Athens: Greece's main opposition party, Syriza, is calling for a comprehensive investigation following a BBC report that implicated the Greek coastguard in the deaths of dozens of migrants over a three-year period. According to witness accounts, nine migrants were allegedly thrown into the sea deliberately.


Syriza's immigration policy chief, Giorgos Psychogios, emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in light of these grave allegations. "We demand an in-depth investigation, we demand answers, we demand accountability, and the reason we do it is this: We care about all human life, and we cannot get used to the loss of human life," Psychogios told the BBC. He highlighted that his centre-left party has consistently sought accountability for similar incidents over the years, often facing backlash from the government.


The Greek government has firmly denied the BBC's claims. Government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis stated that the allegations remain unproven but assured that every complaint would be thoroughly examined. "The coastguard saves dozens of human lives every day," Marinakis told reporters, adding that targeting the coastguard was "wrong." He also accused some Greek individuals of attempting to slander the country, stating, "Reality... has consistently refuted these claims for too many years."


The controversy deepened when a BBC team presented footage, previously published by the New York Times, to a former senior Greek coastguard officer. The footage showed 12 people being loaded onto a Greek coastguard boat and then abandoned on a dinghy. The former officer, unaware his microphone was still on, described the actions as "obviously illegal" and "an international crime."


Accusations of forced returns, or pushbacks, have long plagued the Greek government. These actions, which involve sending migrants back to Turkey, from where they often cross into Greece, are illegal under international law. However, this is the first time the BBC has quantified the incidents, reporting that 15 such cases between May 2020 and 2023 resulted in 43 deaths. The sources for these allegations were primarily local media, NGOs, and the Turkish coastguard.


Human Rights Watch reacted strongly to the BBC's findings, calling them a "particularly horrifying addition to mounting and credible allegations against Greek authorities." The organization has demanded a full investigation to ensure justice for the victims and to break what it describes as a cycle of violence and impunity at Greece's borders.


In addition to Syriza, the social democratic opposition party Pasok also expressed concern. MP Athanasios Glavinas remarked that the BBC report "causes reasonable interest and concern for possible illegal actions" of the coastguard, insisting that "respect for human life and value is non-negotiable."


The Greek Council for Refugees supported the calls for an investigation, labeling pushbacks as a "de facto policy for Greece." They urged both the Greek government and the European Union to initiate an inquiry into the allegations.


As the demand for a thorough investigation gains momentum, the Greek government faces increasing pressure to address these serious accusations and ensure accountability for any unlawful actions by its coastguard.

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