Greece is detaining more than 450 people on a naval vessel docked in the Mytilene harbor in Lesbos and is refusing to allow them to lodge asylum claims in flagrant violation of international and European law, Human Rights Watch said today. Detention aboard the ship may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
“The refusal to allow people in its custody to seek asylum and the open threat to send them back into the hands of their persecutors flies in the face of the values and principles that Greece claims to represent,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee and Migrants Rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Greece should immediately reverse this draconian policy, properly receive these people in safe and decent conditions, and allow them to lodge asylum claims.”
March 8, 2020
The following footage was provided to Human Rights Watch by a Syrian asylum seeker who says he is detained on a Greek naval vessel in the main harbor of Lesbos, Greece.
Syrian Asylum Seeker:
This is the condition of the displaced that arrived after March 1, 2020. They are now being detained on a naval vessel in Lesbos.
Bill Frelick ,Human Rights Watch:
Behind me is a Greek naval vessel which we believe is holding an undetermined number of people who are wanting to claim asylum here.
They left this week from the shores of Turkey, were interdicted by the Greek Coast Guard and are now being detained on this ship.
The Greek government earlier this week announced that it will stop allowing asylum seekers to lodge claims for protection. It has also indicated that it will send unregistered border crossers back to their countries of origin or to Turkey.
These people were not allowed to register, they weren't taken to the Moria Camp where people normally are brought, but instead were brought onto this naval vessel and we frankly don't know what's going to happen to them.
We went to the boat we were sent to the police to the Coast Guard and ultimately we were never granted permission to go aboard and to talk to these people.
They are being detained, they are being denied the right to seek asylum and they're facing the prospect of being returned to countries that would harm them.
This is a violation of their human rights.