A joint-investigation by Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, Der Spiegel, ARD and Asahi TV has uncovered damning evidence that Frontex, the EU’s coastal and border guard agency, has been deliberately stopping people from reaching the EU via the Aegean.
According to the exposé – released today – Frontex has been complicit in the illegal, violent pushback of migrants and refugees in Greece. Yet, despite clear evidence of human right breaches, including leaked documents, as well as interviews with migrants and Frontex staff, the agency denies any involvement in such pushbacks.
As recently as July, Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri appeared before the EU Parliament’s civil liberties committee to say only one incident of pushback had been reported.
In the wake of the devastating fire in Moria camp last month, a delegation of Left MEPs visited Lesvos and met with Frontex officials on the ground. Amongst them was Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany) who was particularly unimpressed by the agency staff’s response on the issue of pushbacks.
Despite being told by Left MEPs that Danish Frontex coast guard was asked but then refused to take part in a pushback, the agency in Lesvos insisted “they had not seen anything”. Today’s report thus backs up the catalogue of violations that Frontex is guilty of, says Ernst:
“This investigation now proves what NGOs, researchers, lawyers and many others have been saying for many months: Frontex has not only been aware of illegal push-backs from Greece to Turkey, they are complicit in such breaches of European and international law. What is more, they have even invested considerable administrative time and resources into covering up these pushbacks.”
“This report shows how an EU agency is at cahoots with the authorities in member states in breaching of EU law. Fabrice Leggeri, the director of Frontex, has also lied to the EU Parliament’s civil liberties committee when he said that they were not aware of any pushbacks.”
“This abuse has to stop. The Commission must act now. Leggeri’s position has also become untenable and must be fired. Infringement procedures must also begin against Greece, Portugal and Romania for their parts in the abuse.”
“As of now, unless the EU Commission puts a stop to Frontex’s action, we consider them complicit in the push-backs,” she concluded.
Sira Rego (Izquierda Unida, Spain) added:
“As we have been saying for a long time, Frontex’s complicity in inhumane and illegal pushbacks have finally been proved. For a long time, the agency has been notorious for its lack of transparency and dishonesty. We say that because we have been trying to get data on the routes of its vessels in the Aegean.”
“With this investigation, we must no longer allocate resources to an agency that is dedicated to doing the dirty work of member state governments. Fabrice Leggeri must resign over this”, she said.
For Greek MEP Kostas Arvanitis (Syriza), this report also has implications for the Greek authorities:
“If the findings are true, this investigation completely vindicates our criticisms of Frontex. If Frontex had indeed ignored those in need, or had actively participated in pushbacks, the ramifications are too grave to ponder.”
“Incidents of pushbacks no longer appear to be isolated cases practiced solely by the Greek authorities, but rather, an institutional, systematic policy choice . Now, more than ever, it is urgent that both the Commission and the Greek authorities do everything necessary to shed light on such horrifying reports of criminal conduct on their part,” he concluded.