EU border agency involved in Greece’s migrant pushbacks: Probe

Greece
Fri, 29 Apr 2022 5:16 GMT
The European Union's border agency has been involved in Greece's illegal pushback of over 900 asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea, according to a new investigation, a French daily reported Thursday. According to the findings of a joint investigation carried...
EU border agency involved in Greece’s migrant pushbacks: Probe

The European Union's border agency has been involved in Greece's illegal pushback of over 900 asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea, according to a new investigation, a French daily reported Thursday.

According to the findings of a joint investigation carried out by France's Le Monde newspaper, German weekly Der Spiegel, Swiss news outlets SRF Rundschau and Republik and Netherlands-based Lighthouse Reports, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) was involved in 22 pushbacks between March 2020 and September 2021.

Frontex recorded the incidents -- in which at least 957 asylum seekers were taken off dinghies, put into Greek life rafts and left adrift at sea -- as "prevention of departure," the investigation underlined.

Speaking to SRF, Nula Frei, an expert in migration law at Switzerland's University of Fribourg, said Greece carried out pushbacks without giving people the chance to go through an asylum procedure, which is not permissible under international law.

SRF however drew attention that Greece has denied allegations of pushbacks, despite the presence of proof and complaints by Turkiye and numerous international non-governmental organizations.

Republik furthermore maintained that in at least two cases, the asylum seekers, including women and children, who had already landed on a Greek island, were then illegally dumped in Turkish waters.

Even these clearly unlawful cases were labeled in Frontex's database as "prevention of departure," it noted.

On March 17, publishing the findings of an investigation by OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud watchdog, Der Spiegel revealed that Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri and other top officials not only knew of but also covered up the Greek pushbacks in the Aegean Sea.

GREECE'S ILLEGAL PUSHBACK POLICY

Human rights advocates and leading media outlets have frequently reported illegal pushbacks and other rights breaches by Greek authorities violating EU and international law.

Besides seaborne pushbacks, Greek border forces are also accused of apprehending and forcibly expelling migrants who manage to cross into the country by land.

In February, at least 19 irregular migrants were found frozen to death near the Turkish-Greek border after being pushed back to Turkiye by Greece.

Turkish officials criticized Athens for inhumane and degrading treatment of irregular migrants, saying those who were found dead had been stripped of their clothes and shoes by the Greek border guards. Greece denied any involvement.

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