(ATHENS) Hundreds of refugees marched on Saturday to protest Athens’ highly restrictive migration policy, accusing Greece’s conservative government of “murdering” asylum seekers through its illegal pushbacks.
“Stop the repressions, down with this government of assassins”, proclaimed a banner at the rally organized in front of the Parliament. Another said, “The blood of the innocent cries out for justice.”
Some protesters held up signs bearing the date of the sinking of migrant boats in the Aegean Sea.
Other protesters linked the death of migrants at sea to the February 28 rail tragedy, blamed on the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which killed 57 people. “Mitsotakis, you have blood on your hands—dead children in the sea, dead children on trains,” protesters chanted.
Since coming to power four years ago, Greece’s conservative government has strengthened its sea and land borders with Turkey in an effort to curb illegal immigration.
Greek Police Minister Takis Theodorikakos announced this week that a contract would be signed “in the next few days” to build a 35 km extension to the metal fence that Athens installed on its Turkish border.
The latest tragedy in Greek waters saw the deaths of a man and a woman in early March, when a speedboat carrying around 30 people sank near the island of Kos.
A month earlier, a woman and a man had drowned when a dinghy carrying 41 asylum seekers crashed on the rocky coast of the island of Lesvos.
In January, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU wanted to enter into migration agreements with countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria, “to improve returns […] and prevent departures”.
Greece has deported and repatriated more than 8,000 people in the past two years, according to the Migration Ministry.
The Greek government has always rejected accusations of refoulement of refugees, despite accusations to this effect coming from the refugees themselves, from human rights NGOs and even from the United Nations special rapporteur for the rights of migrants. “In Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have de facto become systematic,” UN rapporteur Felipe Gonzalez Morales said last year.