ANKARA (AA) – The EU’s border agency has been complicit in Greece’s illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers.
A German magazine published on Thursday 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.
The magazine asserted that the senior officials of Frontex believed Greece was facing a hybrid threat from Turkiye in the form of migrant flows and that, hence, human rights could take a back seat.
What is more, the report alleged that EU heavyweights, including Germany, maintained this narrative and backed Leggeri’s and Greece’s actions in the Aegean Sea.
Der Spiegel also published pictures taken by Frontex’s own aerial assets, clearly exposing the pushbacks by Greek forces.
One of these was of an Greek coast guard elements intercepting a dinghy with no engine on April 19, 2020, towing it back to Turkish waters and leaving it there.
The magazine drew attention to the fact that the EU Commission convened an extraordinary meeting of the Management Board following initial revelations on the matter, with the fundamental rights officer detailing how the pushbacks were taking place.
The German representative, however, said that the fight against terrorism was a priority and that Frontex should thus be strengthened.
Founded in 2005, Frontex is an agency of the EU tasked with managing the bloc’s external land and sea borders.
It has been accused of involvement in illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees at the bloc’s external borders, including in Greece, Croatia, and Romania. The pushbacks violate the principle of non-refoulement enshrined in international refugee law.
The agency has come under scrutiny from rights groups, along with several institutions and legal bodies.
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.