There is "mounting evidence" of pushbacks of asylum-seekers from Greece to Turkey in recent times, a United Nations human rights office spokesperson said Tuesday.
"Pushbacks are illegal under international law and should not happen," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Marta Hurtado said at a U.N. press conference.
"Every person, every migrant, trying to cross an international border has the right of an individual assessment," Hurtado said.
To a question by Anadolu Agency (AA) about the pushbacks, Hurtado said her office is currently talking with the European Union.
"For a few months, we've been trying to confirm and see what the EU should do to stop the undertaking of these pushbacks on the external borders," Hurtado said.
Last Friday, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson urged Greece to investigate illegal pushbacks of asylum-seekers.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting of EU interior affairs ministers in Luxembourg, Johansson said she expects Greece to "take it seriously, do the investigation, and find out what really happened."
Turkey and human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum-seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children, yet similar incidents keep occurring.
Turkey's five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees to leave Turkey for the EU, with Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life. Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants looking to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.
In a new report, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) revealed recently that migrants at EU borders still face difficult conditions and violations of rights in detention and reception centers. The report also noted that pushing migrants back to Turkey has become the de facto border policy of Greece and that torture, ill-treatment and pushbacks continue.