This week, Begüm Başdaş talked with lawyer Lorraine Leete from the Legal Centre Lesvos about how Greece is using illegal operations to push back asylum seekers from Europe’s borders, where European Union (EU) Border Agency Frontex is also accused of turning a blind eye to such human rights violations. Leete explained the details of the new complaint filed by the Legal Centre Lesvos before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding these “pushback” operations by the Hellenic Coast Guard in the Aegean Region. This complaint is the fifth legal action filed against Greece by LCL before the Court concerning extensively evidenced incidents of collective expulsions in the Aegean. The lawsuit focuses on an incident in October 2020 where a fishing boat from Marmaris set for Italy carrying about 200 people was intercepted by the Hellenic Coast Guard and accuses Greek authorities with very serious violence and sophisticated inter-agency operations to push refugees back and stop their arrival on the islands. Leete also commented on some of the specific legal cases supported by LCL in the Greek Islands, where asylum seekers are systematically punished and imprisoned with charges such as “smuggling,” “facilitating illegal entry” and “illegal entry.”
Lorraine Leete is a lawyer who has worked investigating and litigating human rights and environmental abuses in Colombia, Palestine, the US and Greece. She is one of the coordinators of the Legal Centre Lesvos, which provides legal information, assistance and representation to migrants arriving by sea on the Greek island of Lesvos. The LCL also works towards collective justice and structural change as part of movements resisting Europe’s border imperialism on many fronts, including through advocacy and strategic litigation.