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AP team finds evidence of illegal migrant pushbacks by Greece

Huda Zaga, a Palestinian woman, speaks during an interview with the AP on the island of Samos, Greece, June 9, 2021. The woman and her three children apparently eluded Greek authorities after reaching Samos in April with more than two dozen other migrants who were returned to Turkey within 24 hours. The Zuga family applied for and were granted asylum, adding credence to allegations that summary deportations, known as pushbacks, are occurring, despite denials by Greece. (AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris)

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Athens bureau chief Elena Becatoros and freelancer Michael Svarnias landed an all-formats interview with a Palestinian woman that hinted at a controversial tactic the Greek government has denied using: migrant pushbacks, the illegal summary deportations of migrants without giving them a chance to apply for asylum.

With help from Svarnias, a reporter on the island of Samos, Athens video journalist Lefteris Pitarakis and photographer Petros Giannakouris, Becatoros unraveled the story of the Palestinian woman who said she and her three children arrived from Turkey several days earlier on a boat with other migrants, but she and the children became separated from the group and managed to apply for asylum. The other 28 members of the group ended up being found in a life raft sent back to sea.

The reporting by Becatoros and Svarnias resulted in a thorough account of one of the most tangible examples yet of a systematic effort to deport migrants from Greece directly upon arrival. Greece vehemently denies the claims, but rights groups and migrants insist that Greece has been carrying out the practice.

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The port city of Vathy, with a camp for refugees and migrants on the hillside, on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, Greece, June 11, 2021. – AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris
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