Greece before the European Court of Human Rights

No accountability for victims of pushbacks in national courts

Greece – Pushbacks – ECtHR

In December 2021, the European Court of Human Rights communicated eight cases from a total of 47 applicants, filed against Greece between January and December 2021. ECCHR and its partners PRO ASYL and Refugee Support Aegean have submitted a third party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in July 2022 in all eight cases regarding Greece’s systematic human rights violations at its borders.


Amongst the eight cases are applicants from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo, and Afghanistan. The groups include an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan pushed back into the sea from the island of Samos and a Syrian family with small children pushed back after being held incommunicado in the Soufli police and border guard station. The applicants explain that their expulsions, ill-treatment and detention violated article 2 (right to life), article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment), article 5 (right to liberty and security), article 8 (respect for private and family life), and article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the ECHR.

The joint third party intervention by ECCHR, PRO ASYL and Refugee Support Aegean analyzes victims of pushbacks’ access to effective domestic investigations for claims alleging violations of article 2 and article 3 ECHR. The submission draws on decades of reporting from monitoring institutions such as the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture showing that the ill-treatment, inhumane arbitrary detention and summary, violent pushbacks are part of an intentional and coordinated policy of migration deterrence. These reports also conclude that such policy is in continuity with a widespread issue of ill-treatment by and impunity of Greek forces.

The TPI examines how systemic obstacles to Greek law-enforcers’ accountability for ill-treatment and endangering life specifically impact victims of pushback operations. It analyses how the secret and informal nature of the operations, coupled with the fact that victims and witnesses are (undocumented) non-citizens results in no chances for an effective investigation. The TPI highlights the reluctance of Greek authorities, including investigators, prosecutors and courts, to shed light on these secret border operations and how it contributes to persistent impunity and allows pushback practices to continue. As a result, victims of pushbacks from Greece do not have access to effective domestic remedies for claims under article 2 and 3 ECHR.



These eight cases before the European Court of Human Rights are amongst a string of pending cases against Greece’s systematic human rights violations, where Greek officers violently push refugees and migrants back from its land and sea borders.

Some were secretly detained in the Evros region before being forcibly returned in rubber dinghies across the river back to Turkey. Others were intercepted in boats close to Greek shores before being towed back into Turkish waters or forced onto inflatable rafts and pulled into the Aegean Sea. These pushbacks deny the opportunity for accountability for the numerous human rights violations and due to the complacency of Greek investigators, prosecutors and courts, the people affected now turn to Strasbourg. 

Documents (3)


Glossary (2)


European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

The European Court of Human Rights was established in 1959 to adjudicate cases of alleged violations of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Topics (1)



Illegal pushbacks or forced returns at EU borders represent a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights and refugee laws. Since 2014, ECCHR has been examining the scope for legal intervention against the practice of pushbacks in the EU and has been helping affected persons with individual legal proceedings.

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