Greece detaining migrants in secret facility - NYT

The Greek government is violating international law by holding migrants at a secret extrajudicial location before expelling them to Turkey an illegal process known as refoulement, the New York Times said. 

Several migrants told the New York Times that they had been stripped of their belongings, beaten, held incommunicado, and expelled from Greece without being given a chance to claim asylum or speak to a lawyer.

The extrajudicial centre in northeast Greece, whose existence the New York Times said it had confirmed through on-the-ground reporting and forensic analysis of satellite imagery, is one of several tactics Greece is using to seal the borders of Europe and prevent a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis. 

Meanwhile, at least three migrants have been shot and killed while trying to enter Greece in the past two weeks, the newspaper said.

François Crépeau, a former U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, told the New York Times that the centre was the equivalent of a domestic “black site”, since detainees were kept in secret and denied due process, and that it represented a violation of the right to seek asylum and “the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and of European Union law”.

Greek authorities did not comment on the existence of the site, but a spokesperson for the Greek government told the New York Times that Greece had detained and expelled migrants in accordance with Greek law. An act passed on March 3 suspended asylum applications for a month and allowed immediate deportations. 

The authorities denied reports of deaths along the border and defended their actions as a legitimate response to the Turkish government’s decision to open its side of the border with Greece in late February. Greek officials said they feared being left responsible for hosting thousands more migrants with little support from other European Union countries. 

Forensic analysis of videos provided by witnesses to the New York Times confirmed the death of at least one person - a Syrian factory worker - after he was shot on the Greek-Turkish border.

Using footage supplied to several media outlets, the newspaper also established that the Greek Coast Guard had fired shots in the direction of migrants in a dinghy that was trying to reach Greece in early March, had beat them with sticks and had driven past them at high speed, risking tipping them into the water. 

In one of several accounts of extrajudicial detentions and expulsions, Somar al-Hussein, a Syrian Kurdish trainee software engineer, told the New York Times he had been captured and taken to a crammed detention site by Greek border guards after he had crossed the Evros River that forms the Turkish-Greek border in late February. He said his phone was confiscated and his requests to claim asylum and contact U.N. officials were ignored. 

After a night without food or drink, on March 1, Hussein and dozens of others said they were ferried back to the Turkish side across the Evros River in a small speedboat by Greek police officers. “To them, we are like animals,” said Hussein.