30 / 06 / 2023

Greek Border Guards call on Solomon to retract investigation which reveals they stole more than €2 million from refugees

The Union of Evros Border Guards demands that Solomon removes from its website the investigation that revealed how in recent years members of the Greek security forces have stolen more than €2 million from refugees during pushbacks.



On March 9, 2023, in collaboration with Spanish newspaper El País, Solomon published the findings of a months-long investigation, which sheds light on the extent of a practice, that in recent years, Greek border guards have allegedly engaged in: confiscating money and personal belongings from refugees during illegal pushbacks.

To document the research, we conducted interviews with several sources. Among them were employees of the Greek asylum system, active and retired members of the security forces, Frontex officials, lawyers, experts, as well as residents of Evros.

We collected testimonies from the victims of pushbacks, some of which have been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and analyzed 374 published testimonies that were recorded by a variety of agencies, which describe the pushbacks of over 20,000 asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey via Evros during the period of 2017-2022.

The publication of the investigation caused the immediate reaction of MEPs, including the president of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), who addressed questions to the Commission.

But these were not the only reactions that followed.

We received a legal notice from the Union of Evros Border Guards (ESYFNE), which refutes the findings of our investigation, which it characterizes as “slanderous and untrue” and calls on us “to retract the article and publish a correction”.

The legal notice, signed by a lawyer in Alexandroupoli on May 23, has a delivery date of May 29. However, during that time, our staff was traveling abroad for professional obligations, and we only became aware of the legal notice on June 15.

In an interesting turn of events, we found that the delivery date coincided with a remarkable news story: on the very same day, five border guards from the Border Unit of Isaaki Didymotihos were accused of being involved in a refugee smuggling ring and were arrested.

According to the Hellenic Police, the five border guards had in their possession: €26,550, 59 mobile phones, 12 power banks, 2,120 USD, 850 Turkish lire, 23 GBP, 77 Romanian Leu, a number of banknotes from Asian countries, and a bank card.

In other words, on the same day that the Evros border guards were calling for the withdrawal of our investigation which described how Greek border guards were taking money and mobile phones from refugees during pushbacks, five of their colleagues were arrested, and large sums of foreign currency and 59 mobile phones were found in their possession.

The legal notice also refers to the “arbitrary use” of a photo (depicting an ESYFNE member) which was used as a central illustration in our article, which they claim was used to “publicly and brutally insult the honor and dignity” of the said border guard “in the most arbitrary and abusive manner”.

This reference causes a real doubt, as:

  • the photos that were used were obtained online (specifically from the website of the Ministry of Citizen Protection), and are also used in a multitude of other publications,
  • the photographs were processed by Solomon (to such a degree that the features of the border guard are not distinguishable), to create an artistic composition of the illustration which reflects the various elements of the subject,
  • and above all, a simple reading of the article is enough to make it clear that no mention is made of specific persons.

In any case, as our purpose is to highlight an alarmingly widespread phenomenon that has also been recorded by a multitude of organisations (eg Human Rights Watch), we will replace the photo in question from our central illustration.

Therefore, we will defend our work and the belief that it serves the public interest.

We are at ESYFNE’s disposal for an in-depth interview, and even bring to their attention the recently published interim report of the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR).

The report by GNCHR, an official advisory body of the Greek state, estimates the minimum number of people who were forced back between 2020-2022 at 2,157 persons (without taking into account cases recorded by other organisations, e.g. the High Commission).

In addition, the report states that in 88% of the cases the victims suffered violence, and in 93% their belongings and money were confiscated. 

In recent years, Solomon has consistently covered migration issues, highlighting human rights violations both on the mainland and on the islands. And we will continue to do so.

More to read

Before you go, can you chip in?

Quality journalism is not of no cost. If you think what we do is important, please consider donating and becoming a reader who makes our work possible.