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Offbeat Migrations: Frontex questioned for push-backs at sea

14:00  24 october  2020
14:00  24 october  2020 Source:   20minutes.fr

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Frontex officials have publicly claimed that they know nothing about pushbacks by Greek border guards. According to documents viewed by DER SPIEGEL, asylum-seekers repeatedly reported pushbacks by Greek security forces to Frontex officials.

A Danish patrol boat monitoring the Aegean sea refused an order to push back migrants they rescued, Danish officials told public broadcaster DR. The Danish boat was patrolling the sea between Turkey and Greece's easternmost islands as part Greece holds out hope for EU action on migration .

According to the investigation of several media, "Frontex officials are aware of the illegal practices of Greek border guards - and are partly involved in the push-backs themselves"

Une patrouille Frontex et le pneumatique transportant des migrants qu'elle a intercepté arrivent au port de Skala Sikamias, sur l'île grecque de Lesbos, le 29 septembre 2019. © ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP A Frontex patrol and the tire carrying migrants it intercepted arrive at the port of Skala Sikamias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, September 29, 2019. INQUIRY - According to the investigation of several media, "Frontex officials are aware of the illegal practices of Greek border guards - and are partly involved in the push-backs themselves"

Frontex, the European border surveillance agency, is implicated in several push-back incidents in sea ​​of ​​asylum seekers' boats crossing the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece, says an investigation by several media, including the German magazine Spiegel .

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Thousands and thousands of people are crossing Mediterranean every year in attempt to reach Europe. In 2019 over 1000 people have drowned in the sea . Meanwhile different governments are trying to ban and prosecute those saving lives in name of solidarity and mutual support.

Frontex report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on its activities aimed at phenomenon, the profile of groups most at risk, the ‘pull’ and ‘ push ’ factors involved and the It is designed for first- and second-line border guard officers in air, land and sea border operations.

The investigations carried out "show for the first time that Frontex officials are aware of the illegal practices of Greek border guards - and are in part involved in the pushbacks themselves," wrote the Spiegel in an article available online this Saturday .

Illegal practices

Journalists claim to have documented six cases that have occurred since April in the Aegean Sea in which Frontex teams have at least assisted without reacting to refoulements to Turkey of refugee boats in Greek waters, an illegal practice. In one case, in June, a video shows a Frontex ship blocking a refugee boat, and then, in another recorded scene, passing the refugee boat at high speed before leaving the scene.

In addition to Spiegel, the research was carried out by a magazine of the German channel ARD, the journalist collective "Lighthouse Reports", the investigative platform "Bellingcat" and the Japanese television channel "TV Asahi". The authors explain having compared "dozens" of videos, satellite images, eyewitness accounts, including refugees and Frontex employees.

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Code of conduct

The European border surveillance agency has hired more than 600 agents in Greece, one of the gateways to the EU, as well as boats, drones and planes, according to the article. Frontex did not comment on the specific cases raised by the research, Spiegel said, but said its agents were bound by a human rights code of conduct and respected the ban on refoulements.

Without mentioning the article, Frontex said on its Twitter account on Friday evening that it had been "in contact with the Greek authorities about incidents at sea in recent months" and that Athens had opened an "internal investigation". Frontex acts "with respect for fundamental rights and international law," the agency said on Twitter.

Frontex continues to provide support to Greece at its external borders in line with our mandate and in the spirit of EU solidarity, in full respect of fundamental rights and international law.

- Frontex (@Frontex) October 23, 2020

Greece's conservative government has always rejected allegations of illegal push-backs at its borders which are regularly reported by several NGOs.

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This is interesting!