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Turkey/Greece: persistent reports of mistreatment of African group

Briefing notes

Turkey/Greece: persistent reports of mistreatment of African group

31 July 2001

The UNHCR office in Ankara is still awaiting a reply to its request for access to the border area between Turkey and Greece, as persistent reports suggest that at least some of a group of perhaps 200 African immigrants may still be in the area. On Friday, a UNHCR protection team from our Athens office travelled along the Greek bank of the river that marks the border between the two countries. As well as visiting the river - which they described as shallow - they also visited a detention centre and police stations, and interviewed numerous officials and local people. However they were unable to find any evidence that any of the Africans had actually made it to the Greek side of the river.

However, interviews that UNHCR has carried out with some of the group that made it back to Istanbul and Ankara - including one couple who had UNHCR letters of concern - consistently suggest that the group was indeed shuttled back and forth across the river. One very consistent detail is that they were forced to cross by foot from the Turkish side, and then put in boats when they were in turn forced back from the Greek side. Some of those interviewed claim to have been forced back and forth numerous times. UNHCR remains very concerned, firstly that there may still be some people of concern to UNHCR down near the border, in very uncertain conditions, and secondly that the reports about the entire group's treatment from the beginning of this incident in early July remain extremely worrying.