The Greek authorities have been discovered to be secretly detaining refugees and migrants in a black site where they beat them, steal their belongings and deport them back to Turkey without trial.
According to the New York Times, which published the findings yesterday, the secret extrajudicial location near the Greek-Turkish border has been used for the purpose of unlawfully detaining the kidnapped refugees and migrants who managed to get into Greece.
The site was brought to attention firstly through on-the-ground interviews with refugees, which then prompted detailed analysis of satellite imagery, enabling the NYT to confirm the existence of such sites in north-eastern Greece.
Former UN Special Rapporteur François Crépeau was shown the diagrams and evidence of the site, after which he acknowledged that it is identical to domestic “black sites” in which prisoners are secretly kept in confinement without access to legal aid. With the help he provided, the paper was able to use and compare drawings, descriptions and satellite coordinates to accurately locate the site at an area of farmland laying between the Maritsa river on the Turkish border and the small town of Poros.
The detention facility was further confirmed by an unnamed former Greek official with knowledge of police operations, who admitted that it is not officially classified as a detention site but has been used unofficially in periods of increased migration. A Sweden-based research organisation named Respond also confirmed the facility’s existence.
When three NYT journalists attempted to visit and access the site, they were stopped at a roadblock by police officers and special forces personnel.
One refugee named Somar Al-Hussein, a Syrian Kurd who is a trainee software engineer by profession, reported to the paper that after taking a coach from Turkey to the Greek border and spending the rainy night on the bank of the Maritsa (Evros) river, he boarded a rubber dinghy along with other refugees and migrants and managed to reach the Greek side.
They were then captured by Greek border guards, however, and taken to the black site which he confirmed consisted of three red-roofed warehouse buildings next to a farm. Throughout his detention, his phone was confiscated by the guards in order to stop him from making calls, and the guards repeatedly ignored his requests to contact UN officials and claim asylum.
He was thrown into a cell with dozens of others, where he spent the night before being deported back to Turkey the next day. He said he was given no food or drink during his ordeal. “To them, we are like animals,” he said as he recalled the treatment given to him and other refugees by the Greek guards at the secret site.
Over the past two weeks, since Turkey opened its borders with Syria and Greece and allowed refugees to make their way to Europe unhindered, Greek border police and security forces have attempted to protect the “shield of Europe” by preventing refugees from entering into the country. This has resulted in significant abuse committed by the Greek authorities and border guards, with the refugees having been shot at with live ammunition and tear gas cannisters, had their boats almost overturned at sea, and in many cases even being stripped naked, beaten, tortured with marks left on their bodies, and forced to walk back to the Turkish side of the border naked. At least one Syrian refugee has been killed in the border struggle so far.