In February 2020, right before the Covid lockdowns, the Turkish government announced it would stop patrolling its borders to keep migrants from entering Europe, as it had been doing since the EU-Turkey deal was signed in 2016. Tens of thousands of migrants then attempted to cross into Greece and Bulgaria by land and sea. In response, the Greek border authorities beat people and sent them back across the Evros river to Turkey, dragging boats from Greek waters into Turkish seas and stealing their motors, or even taking those already firmly planted on European soil and depositing them back at sea, to merely float. Though the government denies this policy, these “pushbacks,” or “collective expulsions,” have continued ever since, having become a new European border strategy in Greece.
And it’s working. Since the Greek pushbacks began in earnest, remarkably few refugees have arrived, according to official numbers. The reports gathered from both local and international NGOs are staggering in their claims: since March 2020, thousands of people have been confirmed to have been forcibly expelled from Europe by Greek and European border authorities. And that’s only the cases that have come forward and been confirmed—or survived.
Meanwhile, the Greek government continues to criminalize refugees and to intimidate and prosecute the humanitarian workers and human rights monitors coming to their aid.
This project will investigate collective expulsions in Greece, as well as the criminalization of humanitarian workers, culminating in a narrative feature for Mother Jones and a reported essay for The New York Review of Books.