Media inquiries have shown that “senior Frontex officials are aware of illegal practices by Greek border guards”.
The European border protection agency Frontex has been involved in several illegal “setbacks” by migrants and refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. This was the result of a media investigation.
The investigation shows that “high-ranking Frontex officials are aware of illegal practices by Greek border guards – and that some of them are themselves involved in setbacks,” said German Spiegel on its website.
Also known as “rejection”, “pushbacks” are incidents in which refugees or migrants are illegally brought back across a border into a country where they could be persecuted.
Journalists say they have uncovered six cases since April where Frontex units have taken no action to prevent refugee boats from returning to Turkey in Greek waters.
A video from an incident in June shows a Frontex boat blocking one with refugees. A later shot from the same encounter shows it speeding over the bow of the boat before leaving the area.
The German public broadcaster ARD, the journalists’ collective Lighthouse Reports, the investigation platform Bellingcat and the Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi were involved in the investigation alongside Der Spiegel.
The journalists said they compared “dozen” of videos and also checked satellite images and eyewitness accounts of refugees, migrants and Frontex workers.
Der Spiegel reported that more than 600 people from the European border authority, which is equipped with boats, drones and airplanes, are stationed in Greece, where many migrants are entering the European Union for the first time.
It added that Frontex would not comment on the individual cases uncovered by the investigation, but rather referred to a code of conduct on human rights and non-refoulement designed to bind staff.
On Friday, she posted on Twitter that her actions in support of the Greek authorities had been carried out “in full respect of fundamental rights and international law” and added that she had “contacted the Greek authorities in recent months about some incidents at sea Has”.
Athens has launched an “internal investigation,” it added.
The Greek government denies having carried out any setbacks by refugees to Turkey. Frontex officials have publicly claimed they were unaware of any setbacks by Greek border guards.