Greek authorities have stolen more than €2 million ($2.1 million) in cash or valuables from irregular migrants or refugees whom they had returned to Turkiye between 2017 to 2022, according to an investigation by Spanish daily El Pais.
The paper said in preparing its investigation it had interviewed irregular migrants, various non-governmental organisations, institutions, experts and residents on the borders of the Maritsa river in the past six months.
According to the report, the Greek authorities have returned more than 20,000 irregular migrants to Turkiye across the Maritsa border in the period 2017-2022, and during this period, the Greek security forces had stolen the immigrants’ money and valuables.
The Greek authorities would take irregular migrants who have applied for asylum, to police stations, military barracks, or empty warehouses and treat them violently and steal their cash and valuables, including mobile phones, rings, earrings, bracelets and watches.
El Pais said looking at data from nongovernmental organisations, institutions related to migration in the Evros province, lawyers and other sources, the true figure of stolen cash could be “significantly higher” since many of the deportations and robberies are not registered by local organisations.
El Pais identified a modus operandi that involves capturing the migrants or refugees, denying them the possibility to request asylum and bringing them to places like police stations, warehouses or military barracks, where they are robbed and treated violently. After that, they send them to Turkiye, often on inflatable rafts.
“When you take away their phones, you get rid of any evidence that they were there. When you take their money, you make their lives more difficult. When you leave them naked, another trend on the rise, you humiliate and demoralize them. It’s part of a strategy to dissuade them from trying to get back into Greece again,” Eva Cosse from Human Rights Watch told El Pais.